Album Review – David Bowie – Black Star (2016)
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This review is strangely going to be the hardest review I have ever written, because the news of David Bowie’s death hit me very hard, as it will have done for many. I may have not been an active fan; however, I respected him a great deal, and he had an undermining presence in my childhood, especially during his acting career. He was incredibly talented, and a unique asset to one of music’s most experimental eras. He broke a lot of boundaries, and opened the doors for so many opportunities that artists today take huge advantage. Bowie was a huge influence on many established rock genres, and has been named a proto-punk artist, a British peer of the likes of Patti Smith, The Stooges, New York Dolls, The Who, and Hawkwind (the psychedelic/progressive rock band Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister of the later Motorhead played bass for in his early music career). It has also been acknowledged on his influences of the post-punk genres such as Goth rock, and New wave.
Like the loss of Ian Kilmister late last year in December, and Phil Taylor, who tragically passed away on 11th November 2015, David Bowie’s death has left such a gaping hole in the music world. It will be very hard to replace him.
On the 8th January 2015, the late David Bowie unleashed his latest experimental creation, Blackstar on his 69th birthday. Two months prior on the 19th November 2015, he premiered a music video for the titular track; it was to the first of the last two music videos Bowie would ever release. His last was on the 7th January 2015, for the song Lazarus. This particular music video was itself a tribute to the album Station to Station (1976), and to the titular track, coincidently enough; it would have been the album’s fortieth anniversary last Sunday (23rd January).
Two days later, the news of David Bowie’s passing of an eighteen month battle with cancer made not only the purpose, and the narrative more poignant, but it was also the delivery. Already it was acknowledged that Bowie’s voice had aged, and understandably so. Like Kate Bush (referencing to Ariel (2005), Director’s Cut and 50 Words of Snow (2011)), and Peter Gabriel (Us (1992), Up (2003), Scratch My Back (2010) and New Blood (2011)); both artists being his peers, originating from the experimental genres of progressive and art rock, and later contributing to the later art pop – their later contributions to their career show evident maturity, in their direction and voices. With Bowie’s return to music in the year 2013 with The Next Day, a decade after the album New Reality (2003), he’d followed the very same roots. However, with Blackstar, there was that extra something and it was not until David Bowie passed away that it became plain on what that something was, he was dying.
Being the creative man that he was however, he turned his terminal illness and struggles into a work of art, and told a wonderful story and message of acceptance and there being no fear in dying. There are also beautiful moments of energy, with the songs ‘Tis Pity She Was a Whore (with a tragic undertone of Bowie on a respirator, playing on the idea that we, the listeners would take it as a part of the character he was portraying), with the track exploding in blues and jazz instrumentals, then Sue (Or In Seasons of Crime) spreading into blues and progressive rock with the psychedelic play of the synthesizers. Girl Loves Me is an exceptional track demonstrating the strength of his vocals, deliberately focusing on them as the instrumentals are muted (an emphasis on the bass with orchestrated percussion) to give an illusion of acapella, then finalizes with electronic.
Dollar Days is very reminiscent of Blackstar and Lazarus, it’s slower and reflective but rejects the usage of electronics to take on acoustic; and can be compared to a power ballad. And then we have I Can’t Give Everything Away, though more up-beat in its production, the polar opposite to Lazarus – Bowie’s farewell, in every sense of the word, it is the most melancholiest song on the album, it’s Bowie’s message to the world that he is aware that he is fighting for his life, and during the recording was combating the cancer, a somewhat lead up to the message that Lazarus wanted to address. His goodbye; to his family, friends, and to his fans.
The album constructively is a wonderful piece, and one of Bowie’s greatest works to date in his near fourty seven years of his career, and a beautiful farewell to the world. However, this will not been the last we hear from him, not yet.
Last week, it was confirmed that there will be more of David, as he had been working on other pieces alongside Blackstar. Consequences of Sound established that new material would be scheduled for 2017.