[an abridged version is up on Ryan’s Smashing Life]
What is most compelling about David Bowie’s first studio album in a decade, The Next Day, is not the brilliance of this album, but the brilliance of the timing of this album. A key part of Bowie’s genius, from his earliest incarnations to the present day, is his uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time—with the right musical statement. He has always been the man of the hour, whatever the hour happens to be.
For the past 10 years, our Chief Observer who was always there, holding up a mirror to our hopes and dreams, our fears and insecurities, our pop culture and sacred cows, had covered that mirror with a dark shroud and walked away from public life. He went off to live his life, and left us to live ours, unobserved and unrecorded. But it’s 2013, and Bowie’s back. Why now? Maybe it’s because we need him, or because he needs us. Or it’s that all this clutter and confusion, the growing chasm of human experience and sense of alienation feels too important to be just sitting and watching from the sidelines. Perhaps he feels the need to weigh in and shine his light upon this time in our collective history. Maybe it’s less a concern about legacy, and simply an eagerness to join in on the conversation.