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David Bowie - Blackstar CD (album) cover

BLACKSTAR

David Bowie

 

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4.47 | 342 ratings

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Dobermensch
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Stricken with grief, it took me three weeks before I could bring myself to listen to this after hearing of Bowie's death. How is it possible to feel so sad about the death of someone you've never met or even spoken to?

What makes it all the more painful is that this is far better than any album he's released since 1995's 'Outside' with which 'Blackstar' holds many similarities. It's almost an extension of that recording without Brian Eno twiddling knobs and pushing buttons. After 5 listens I have to admit that 'Blackstar' is a masterpiece. Bowie's 'Abbey Road' if you like.

Being very excited towards the end of last year with the release of the bizarre 'Blackstar' video I couldn't wait for more of this experimental Bowie. Everything was just great - the bandaged face - the scarecrows - the quirky, odd and frankly downright weird tune left me desperate for more.

January 10th 2016... The sky fell down...

A whole new perspective on those 2 videos hit me like a hammer blow. How couldn't I see the wardrobe door as a coffin?, Major Tom's skull? The lyrics should have been obvious enough. The real giveaway were the buttons on the eyes similar to coins on the eyes of the dead who crossed the river Styx with a payment to Charon, the ferryman of Hades, in order that their souls don't haunt the living.

This has made listening to 'Blackstar' a very difficult experience. In a year's time I'm sure I'll look back and say that it was the most brilliant artistic departure anyone has made in music. Art in death. Death in art. Right now it hurts.

'Blackstar' is like a hammered together collection of tunes that vary in sound and emotion. From the very upsetting yet superb opener we move on to 'Tis a Pity she was a Whore' - which could almost be a missing track from 'Let's Dance' When I heard there were saxophones on this album I shuddered. Thankfully they are used tastefully. Bowie's voice is in fine fettle considering he could barely speak during those last months. I guess it was recorded early last year.

'Lazarus' sounds like a missing track lifted from 'Heathen' which is no bad thing at all. The deeply grim lyrics are enough to make a grown man burst into tears. Like the previous two tracks there's very little connection in sound - almost as though they were recorded for different albums. Surprisingly it works really well.

Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) really gets things going with a stomping, frantic beat and excellent vocals. Quite similar in fact to the vastly underrated 'Earthling' from '97. It gets louder than war itself the nearer it reaches the end.

The undoubted highlight for me is the underwhelmingly named 'Girl Loves me'. This sounds like it was recorded for the middle segment of 'Outside' from '95. The expletives are all the more unsettling in that he passed away on Sunday whilst singing 'Where the f*ck did Monday go. This tune is a million miles away from anything on 'The Next Day' which in hindsight just appears to be a clearing of the decks for what was to follow.

'Dollar Days' displays that pastoral green fields of England thing that Floyd did so well in the early 70's. It's a lovely tune with Bowie crooning away just like in the good old days.

There's a harmonica intro in 'I Can't Give Everything Away' that has been directly lifted from "A New Career in a New Town' in '77's 'Low'. It doesn't matter- the tune is beautiful. An almost perfect sendoff that could have been lifted from 'Black Tie White Noise' but in a far more subtle manner.

Believe me - I don't give out 5 stars lightly. If an album deserves to be blown to pieces by a Howitzer, Im the man to do it. 'Blackstar' exceeded my expectations enormously. After the 'painting by numbers' 'The Next Day', this follow up is just experimental enough to not alienate listeners. It's an album which displays an invention and creativity amidst a world of music that has come to bore me senseless during this decade. It's a thing of beauty that I just wish he'd recorded 20 years earlier.

Dobermensch | 5/5 |

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