David Bowie has another new album out! The mysteriously titled ★, which is less mysteriously known as Blackstar is his first new material since the weird single Sue (or in a Season of Crime) in 2014 and first album since the brilliant The Next Day in 2013. ★ is available on CD and on vinyl with some lovely die-cut packaging, and sounds like Bowie trying to perpetuate the avant-garde vibes of Scott Walker.
Vinyl LP £20.99 88875173871
Black vinyl LP in die-cut sleeve on Columbia..
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CD £11.99 88875173862
CD on Columbia.
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I’ve been scribbling notes as the record has been playing in the office and at various points I’ve written the words “very good ....though the saxophone is a bit much”.
'Tis true. Much has been made of this being David Bowie’s most experimental work but on initial listen tracks such as ‘Lazarus' are simply decent Bowie ballads with added saxophone. Luckily there are very good things elsewhere. ‘Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)’ has lively drum and bass beats and staccato grungy guitar over which Bowie wails extremely odd words such as "the X ray is fine”. In a weird reverse timeline thing, Bowie is sounding rather like the early Bowie-influenced Associates here. For those (Phil) expecting some kind of Scott Walker-esque, off-the-scale weirdness, this is nothing of the sort. It’s difficult, atonal but generally recognisable as rock music. The record opens with the endless multi section experimental title track which flows nicely into strangely appealing pitch shifted vocals which seems to incorporate about three songs in one then 'A Pity She Was a Whore' has pulsating drum textures with a bizarre juxtaposition between '80s synth and fluttering saxes.
"Where the Fuck Did Monday Go" wails Bowie on ‘Girl Loves Crime‘. I hear lots of old people say the same thing but not over such a dirty and slinky piece of eerie avant funk. There are moments of nice though -- the verses of 'Dollar Days' are a swishing ballad before discordance sets in. Like a lot of this music it is wordy with straining shifts of key and tempo but this is Bowies prettiest song here by far ....but he can’t bloody stop with the sax.
Without sounding like a stuck record, closer ’I Can't Give Everything Away' has some lovely chord changes almost straying into that in-vogue War on Drugs '80s synth melancholy (which of course Bowie was doing way back) but oh the sax….and for that matter an atrocity of a guitar solo. Wibbling sax and lead guitar over standard progressions don't an experimental record make and yet.....and yet despite all that it's in incredible, elegiac closer.
And then it’ s all over. It’s not really all that long which is a major plus point after the seemingly endless 'The Next Day''. Yes the reliance on wibbly sax solos throughout can be infuriating but this is way, way beyond what we’d expect from our heritage rock acts. Maybe is not as weird or as electronic as the early hype might suggest but still an excellent effort.
10/10 Tim 22nd February 2016
What can I say - thank's Mr Jones for your parting gift.
Brilliant / Brilliance!
9/10 Martin Sirl 25th January 2016
Few Bowie albums since the seventies have had that factor that makes you think on the very first hearing that here is something great. But this one comes as near as any. From the opening bars of the title track Blackstar calls out to you listen to it repeatedly and to seek out the subtleties therein. Bowie's decision to use local jazz musicians pays dividends here with each track a melting pot of unusual key changes and time signatures.
Whether you treat this as Bowie's final farewell or simply the latest installment of the Bowie story (and even in death there will be more) this is one Bowie album you will want to own.
10/10 Weasel Howlett 11th January 2016
I realise giving an album 10/10 is an audacious thing to do but this truly deserves the tag "Perfection". From the die-cut sleeve to the exquisite booklet, this is an event for the eyes as well as the ears. The music has a live jazz almost fusion jam feel with the electronic styles of modern Bowie and haunting sometimes spoken vocals. The lyrics hint at a man who knows this is a final swan song but is approaching it all with strength and grace. There are little gems like sax solo's that nod to Bowie's earlier music. It is difficult to believe this great man would not have continued to reinvent himself time after time as this record once again shows. The complete package, a work of art, and a must for your record collection.
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- ★ (Blackstar) by David Bowie
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