Jan 2017 10

David Bowie - BlackstarDavid Bowie
Category: Experimental / Rock / Jazz
Album: Blackstar
Stars: 4.5
Blurb: A final full-length offering from one of the world’s most innovative and truly artistic figures… what more can be said?


The word “artist” is often applied to so many musicians and bands, but few have exemplified the true spirit of that word, creating something in some form of media (or even multiple forms) that enriches one’s experience for now and for all time. There is no argument that David Bowie was truly an artist in every sense of the word, having made his mark on the world of music, theatre, cinema, art, and even technology in a way that reached across several generations and will undoubtedly continue to be examined and studied as anything by Mozart or DaVinci. His death two days after his 69th birthday was not only a major loss to the world, but also seemed to signify the start of darker times to come, with his 25th full-length studio album Blackstar being both his final blessing and an ominous harbinger.

With the knowledge that Bowie intended this album to be his swansong, the awareness of his impending departure hangs like a foreboding cloud upon each lyric, note, drumbeat, and makes every emotional undertone to these seven songs all the more palpable. Produced with longtime cohort Tony Visconti and recorded secretly in New York City with several local jazz musicians, Blackstar achieves a remarkable synergy between Bowie’s past and the present – like sharing a drink with a strange you just met in a bar, but having the same rapport that you had with your best friend of bygone years. One would be hard pressed to not hear traces of the likes of Mike Garson’s piano or the guitars of Carlos Alomar, Mick Ronson, or Reeves Gabrels in the heartfelt performances of Jason Lindner and Ben Monder, respectively.

It would be simplistic to simply call Blackstar a throwback to the experimental Krautrock/jazz fusion of an album like Station to Station, although that is certainly a valid generalization of the album’s overall aesthetic as the abundance of offbeat rhythms and brass in conjunction with smatterings of frantic electronics recalls the cocaine fueled frenzy and melancholy of the Thin White Duke. For instance, the opening title track even seems to bear a similar progressive multi-part structure as “Station to Station,” the haunting harmonies and atmospheres amid convulsive drumbeats seamlessly drawing the listener in before segueing into a more familiarly appealing pop/rock melody, the swells of saxophones adding a swingy quality too sweet to not bring a smile to one’s face before the song finally breaks down into a more tightly rhythmic rendition of the opening section, gradually fading out into the cosmic ether.

However, elements of Bowie’s other creative predilections appear, with “Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)” almost reminding one of the drum & bass indulgence of Earthling, albeit with the same frantic jazziness that permeates the album, giving the song the vibe of a neo-noir soundtrack akin to Lalo Schifrin on steroids, while the lush and soothing pads of closing track “I Can’t Give Everything Away” almost sound like those found on “Thursday’s Child,” the opening track for 1999’s Hours. This latter similarity almost seems appropriate as that song and album saw Bowie in his early 50s coming to grips with his age and his legacy, still expected to dole out the same exuberance and energy of his youth, with “I Can’t Give Everything Away” acting as a stylistic complement as Bowie addresses the same subject near the end of his life. It’s saddening to hear lyrics like “This is all I ever meant / That’s the message that I sent” on this song, or even “I’ve got scars that can’t be seen / I’ve got drama that can’t be stolen / Everybody knows me now” and “I’ve got nothing left to lose” on “Lazarus,” while at the same time gratifying as Bowie faces his exit with such earnestness and acceptance. This is a man secure in his achievements and leaving us with a sense of wisdom and satisfaction.

It actually doesn’t matter that Blackstar may not be Bowie’s most original album; as just stated, this is the work of a man keenly aware of and perhaps finally comfortable with his accomplishments, which allows any artist the freedom to do as he or she pleases with nothing to prove. And even on this final offering, he still finds the time and space to incorporate new influences as the jazzy electronic of Boards of Canada or Amon Tobin and the experimental hip-hop of Death Grips and Kendrick Lamar finds their way into Bowie’s musical concoctions; he’s staring death in the face and still daring to innovate and make music of and ahead of its time. In that regard, Blackstar is not just a snapshot of an artist’s final moments, but a testimonial of a man’s life and legacy, with this year’s No Plan EP being a marvelous complement. As he says on “Lazarus,” a song named after a Biblical figure who rose from the dead, “Ain’t that just like me?” Indeed it is, Mr. Bowie… indeed, it is. Godspeed, you Blackstar; you are loved and missed.
Track list:

  1. Blackstar
  2. ‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore
  3. Lazarus
  4. Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)
  5. Girl Loves Me
  6. Dollar Days
  7. I Can’t Give Everything Away

David Bowie
Website, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube
ISO Records
Columbia Records
Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
RCA Records
Website, Facebook, Twitter
Sony Music
Website, Facebook, Twitter
Purchase at:
Amazon CD
Amazon MP3
Amazon Vinyl
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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