In January this year, word spread that the Thin White Duke was back. Fans had discovered a new Bowie single, Where Are We Now, posted on iTunes along with details of an upcoming album. It was all very mysterious, especially given the total lack of press involvement from Bowie himself.
When that album, The Next Day, was released in March, critics and fans alike sung its praise. The album is well deserving of the attention it has received. It is a loud, urgent, spectacular piece of work. Now, we are getting excited all over again because The Next Day Deluxe has just been released featuring five previously unheard tracks and two remixes.
So, how good are these new songs? The answer: very good indeed. In fact, none of them would have felt out of place on the original album.
My favourite new track is Born In A UFO. Although Bowie mysteriously sounds as though he has a retainer in his mouth the song is totally engrossing with his typically enigmatic lyrics and some rockin’ electric guitar. Another highlight is Atomica, with Bowie at his staccato best over a thumping beat.
Like A Rocket Man showcases Bowie’s storytelling ability at its finest in a song about cocaine, but does anyone else hear that strange melodic resemblance to The Beatles’ “Help”?
I’ve heard others call The Informer a low-point of the album, but after several listens it really grew on me. It is an over-the-top meditation about the end of a life featuring Bowie as his own back-up singer with a lot of layering of vocals, a technique used throughout the album.
God Bless The Girl is an urgent, escalating, beautifully produced number, all jangles and spooky electric guitar. Gospel-style back-up singers feature prominently. I’m such a Disney kid though, whenever they sing “God bless the girl” I can’t help thinking of that calypso number Kiss the Girl from The Little Mermaid.
Now, onto the remixes. The first is Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy for the DFA). This slow-burning epic (it clocks in at over 10 minutes) features lots of hand clapping, a nod to avant-garde composer Steve Reich and his 1972 song Clapping Music. It also incorporates the synth line from Ashes To Ashes. Murphy thankfully allows plenty of space for Bowie’s original vocals, important in maintaining the integrity of the song.
The second remix is I’d Rather Be High (Venetian Mix) which is basically a janglier, more medieval sounding (a harpsichord stars) version of the original song with the structure left pretty much in tact. It’s fun to listen to, though not particularly unique.
This new offering from Bowie HQ is a delight.