David Bowie The Next Day

David BowieThe Next Day
Not even David Bowie himself makes a secret of the fact that The Next Day makes no effort to tread new territory; just look at the album art, whose white square, rather than fully eclipsing the Heroes cover, instead evinces the impossibility of obscuring and fully transcending a musical past so decorated with beloved and acclaimed albums. Rather than fight it, The Next Day borrows heavily from his "Berlin" trilogy and, especially, the follow-up LP, Scary Monsters. The album's highlights — "Dirty Boys," "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)," "If You Can See Me" — bear all the sonic trademarks of his late-'70s work: the hollowed-out, metallic guitar tones, the repetitive phrasing, and the vocal layering that makes his voice sound like a full chorus. Given the amount of ground he's covered so far in his almost 50-year career, a few re-treads are inevitable — are even sort of welcome — but you can still tell when Bowie's heart is in something or not, and the difference between tracks here can be staggering. Where Bowie pours audible feeling into songs like the aforementioned "Stars" and gorgeous closer "Heat," he sounds utterly ambivalent on the mediocre "I'd Rather Be High" and Bowie-by-numbers track "Dancing Out in Space." The Next Day is a good latter-day Bowie record, worthy of at least a few listens, but since it's so evocative of his earlier, better work there's little reason not to put on Scary Monsters or Heroes instead. At the very least, it'll save you from The Next Day's lyrics. (Columbia)