David Bowie is back with The Next Day

David Bowie

David Bowie is back. Seven years after the singer received emergency angioplasty surgery while on tour in Germany, Bowie released a new single, “Where Are We Now?”, on Jan. 8, his 66th birthday. The single preceded the album The Next Day, Bowie’s first collection of new songs in 10 years. The Next Day makes an impressive debut this week on the Billboard 200 album chart, arriving at No. 2, just behind the new Bon Jovi album.

As for “Where Are We Now?”, it achieves the spacey reverie heard in Bowie’s songs about imaginary astronaut Major Tom. Instead of being lost in space, however, a resigned Bowie sings of “just walking the dead” in Berlin.

There’s a “China Girl” tempo and sound in “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” a song about the immortality of stars of the celluloid kind. Bowie casts his own stardom aside, placing himself among commoners, singing, “They watch us from behind their shades. Brigitte, Jack, and Kate and Brad … Stars are never sleeping, dead ones and the living.”

“I’d Rather Be High” is another highlight, featuring psychedelic, Indian-flavored rock, vocal glissandos and militaristic snare drum.

The upbeat “Dancing Out in Space” and “How Does the Grass Grow?” are more examples of Bowie and Tony Visconti, the American producer of Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World, Diamond Dogs and Young Americans albums as well as T. Rex’s Electric Warrior and The Slider, working in top form. Guitarist Earl Slick, a member of Bowie’s band in the mid-1970s, also contributes to the welcomed return of a classic, long silent rock star.

John Wirt