Ryan O'Laughlin Reviews the New Bowie Album
Friends and Fans,
With so little time to listen, process and grieve, what more can be said about the extraordinary "design for dying" orchestrated by the irreplaceable David Bowie? As an artist myself, I hope to contribute to the exploding zeitgeist in the most meaningful way possible with this heartfelt review as a lifelong appreciator of the man's work.
Okay, listen, Vlad's out of the room and I have to sneak this by. I'm being guarded by this little pig that has crazy-long fangs... he's just staring at me and smiling. He gets mad when I stop typing, so I just have to go! I'm pretty sure Vlad can only read in "courier" font, so keep this in mind as you read. I don't think the Count knows a damn thing about Bowie other than that he's trending like a mofo on social networking, which is why he's forcing me to do this review. Hell, I don't know Bowie, either, outside of that "dance magic dance" routine he did with those muppets ohshithescomingback
The album opens with "Blackstar," a song bearing the name of the album. How strange it is to open the album with this 9-minute monster epic... it would almost seem like the closing piece, wouldn't it? This was actually two compositions forced into one song by a man hiding his impending passing from many on the project, with an electronic, haunting opening that mutates into a jazzy, funky, transformative revelation with a much lighter, happier tone. What can be gleaned from this? More on that later!
The album seems to backpedal in weight with the next few tracks. "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore" is an allusion to some old limey play I don't know shit about and sports an upward-spiraling horn section against a strong, steady tempo, seemingly out of rythim with the creeping lyrics. This song, when placed against the backdrop of the recently re-opened wound of his statutory indiscretion of his younger days almost predicts the posthumous backlash of a real event I don't know shit about, but does the song truly paint a black-and-white picture?
We move onto "Lazarus," an epic dirge of a man literally talking beyond death, which dovetails with the play he so recently constructed. If this track is sad, it's so confidently sad and so purposefully sorrowful that it simply comes across as impressive.
Okay, he's gone again! Listen, I'm really winging it here, dudes, so apologies to people that know shit from shinola when it comes to Bowie, but Vlad promised me a bottle of whiskey and a new heavy metal record if I nail this fucker, so just go with it!
Moving into the central depths of the record, "Sue(Or In A Season Of Crime)" taunts the listener with scatterbrained synth-jazz gyrations against what seem like a backdrop of the man's soaring vocals. This oddball track was released over a year ago, long before the album was done, seems almost accusatory in tone, but toward "Sue," or the narrator? Seriously, tell me, I'm drunk. Perhaps most interesting is that the b-side to the early release was, "'Tis a Pity..."
Next comes my favorite, "Girl Loves Me." This saying is a veiled reference to gay sex, apparently and involves a lot of nonsense lyrics and lots of f-bombs! Again, I feel as if there's an awareness of posthumous legacy playing with us across this track as it coalesces into into a rhythmic march toward electronic haze.
This Hampire pig is freaking me out! Listen, I'm really out on a ledge, here, bro. If you talk to Vlad on social networking, do me a solid and tell him this review is really good. Trust me, he won't know better and he might even let me out of the house with a kind enough "attaboy" from someone...
"Dollar Days" changes tone quickly, back to the soaring, introspective approach seen in "Lazarus," with a repetitive chorus of, "I'm dying to... push their backs against the grain and fool them all again and again..." This track blends seamlessly into the strangely final track, "I Can't Give Everything Away," the most regretful track on the whole album by far, clearly a sorrowful statement of regret for some aspect of lost or completely uncommunicative meaning.
Okay, bro, check this out. I know anyone probably has better ideas of Bowie at this point, but tell Vlad it's awesome. Hook a brother up!
We're left with an album that's almost backwards in tone and expression, with the epic occurring at the beginning and the regretful minimalism happening at the end. "Blackstar," as a song, points toward a way of seeing Blackstar as an album, with it's strange merging of duality as a setup for exploring the rest. Each track afterward presents a sense of minimalist conflict with itself that obviously illuminates the listener, who knows that the man designed this album across a 14-month period of terminal illness. What does it all mean?
Come on, buddy, throw me a bone!
As an artist myself, I can only say it effectively transforms my senses of grief and loss into something more eternal. Shoot, as an artist, I wish I could pull off something this good. If you put me in the same position, I'd shit myself daily and spend my last 14 months too drunk to say, "goodbye" to the people I cared about.
Okay, this is starting to hit too close to home.
When we look back on the many eras of this brilliant musician who introduced so many eras to us, it's clear that "Blackstar" won't be a song or even an album, but yet another era to appreciate in this man's fantastic legacy of artistic brilliance.
Dance magic dance!
I, for one, feel no sorrow, but only awe and acceptance for an artist who sought to reach out into his own legacy and craft a tale of regret, helplessness and cryptic finality as preparation for his own passing. While not my usual fare, I'd give the highest recommendation to "Blackstar" given the context and encourage longtime fans to not let their sense of loss or mourning get in the way of this fantastic album.
Word count! Fuck, okay, twenty five more characters...
Thank you for your attention,