Tuesday, January 8, 2013

After the Revolution

So, by now, unless you're living in a cave, you're aware that David Bowie announced at midnight last night that he has a new album on the way.
The title is "The Next Day" and it is coming in March. You can already pre-order it on iTunes, and that gets you the first single, "Where Are We Now".
I don't want to sound like some squealing teenager at Bieber concert, but this is the best possible news. 
Here's the cover of the album:

You'll notice immediately that this is the front cover of the album, "'Heroes'" with a modification. This is more than just whimsy--I think this is the direction of the music, and a statement about his aim in this incarnation. Remember that "'Heroes'" (as always, note the quotation marks--the title of that album is not meant to be taken at face value) contained the beyond-legendary song, "Heroes" . The image, the song's lyrics--I think it's all working together toward one question: what do we do when the revolution ends? After the feeling of endlessness (remember that "Heroes" turns out to be the "tunnel song" that helps the title character in the film of  Stephen Chbosky's novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower feel infinite) that comes from the moment of revolution, what happens the next day? This, I think, helps us to see the lyrics of the first single clearly. Here's the video of the first single, "Where are We Now?":

He mentions moving through the city, the mundane nature of catching a train through the city, and asking again and again, "where are we now?" Where are we now that the revolution is over? How do we manifest that revolution in the mundane nature of the next day. "The moment you know you know you know" he says,  recalling Joyce (... Bloom's thoughts about Stephen's thoughts about Bloom and Bloom's thoughts about Stephen's thoughts...) and Gertrude Stein's work simultaneously. The repetition there is purposeful, adding layers of meaning, rather than just refrain (though that is implied, too). 
To me, the song sounds almost like a mournful singing-to-yourself of someone else's song--and that, too, adds to the interpretation: in some ways, perhaps this older, wiser, but more weary Bowie is singing the song a younger Bowie (the one present at that ecstatic moment of revolution in "Heroes") sang boisterously (off camera, in a sense) in a new key--the key of weariness, in the mundane light of the city the day after the revolution. While waiting to catch a train from Potsdamer Platz.

Hence the cover photo callback to "'Heroes'"--I think what we're looking at in this new album is a kind of sibling to the Berlin Trilogy, a direct sequel to "'Heroes'". I, for one, cannot wait.

He's going to take some hits for announcing that he was officially retired and then doing this, but I don't care. He's taken a lot of knocks from the press before, and he'll take them again. What matters is that he is still creating, still stretching. That he is still showing age is not a factor in creativity.
Not his lyric, but apropos all the same: Shine on, you crazy diamond. 

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