David Bowie – Blackstar

A few wee disclaimers/notes up front:

1 – I’m not what anyone would call a massive David Bowie fan, though by no means do I dislike him. I appreciate what he did, but I only own two or three records, and am best acquainted with his hits. If you want a better review by people who know WAY more than me, Google will show you countless efforts. I’d recommend Boppin’s take, for sure.

2 – Surely we all know that this was his 25th record, recorded mostly in secret. It was released to coincide with his 69th birthday (2016), and he died two days later of a cancer the news of which he’d not shared with the public. I say good on him for doing things on his terms. He’d never ave had a moment’s peace if he’d told everyone.

3 – Yes, I am writing this over a year late. But I only bought the album recently, so I suppose now is better than never…

4 – Given my limited knowledge (see #1), I’m likely the worst person in the world to be writing about this record. But I’m gonna do it anyway, aren’t you lucky! Er…

***

Blackstar starts out as a spacelord radiohead-ish weirdo track, with saxophone! Close your eyes and drift out to the stars, baby, until you reach the Blackstar! But then the second half is soulfully lovely and a bit more straight-forward, though there are still elements that creep in… By the time it winds down and the electronics blip and bleep, all I could think was ‘what a trip!’ Boldly starting your record with a 10 minute 2-part song? That’s confidence, baby.

’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore is just a great song name, full points for that. This is a peppier rocker, still with the jazzy saxes! It’s a brilliant blast of infectious energy.

Lazarus is, naturally, slow and comfortable, though it’s occasionally cut by jagged guitars. I picture a late night big city fly-over, all the lights laid out below us, life going on in its myriad ways underneath us and we’re soaring above it all…

Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) is a jittery rockin’ spy movie tune, but with life news and events as lyrics. Fascinating. His singing acts as opposite to the frantic music. This track is busy like crazy, but worth every second. Engrossing.

Girl Loves Me has a cool little vocal rise at the end of lines (almost a yodel!) and it’s another electronic-driven tune with a sure to be classic “where the fuck did Monday go?” line…

Dollar Days is sheer pretty pop, floating and drifting above acoustic guitars and raising/falling bass. This one has his knowledge of his own impending death all over it.* The saxophone drives it all home and we’re left thinking maybe this ought to have been the last track on the album!

I Can’t Give Everything Away lifts us back up with a happier beat and smooth synths. He starts singing and I realize… oh man, they play this one at work on the canned store radio! I know this tune! Oh man, hang on. I don’t know what to do with this information – this is the last track Bowie would put on a studio album, and it gets played in my thrift shop! David would probably find it amusing. Ah, no matter. You know, he was right, the album couldn’t have ended on Dollar Days, a down note. This jazzy, upbeat tune was the way to end it. And when the song fades out, I sit here and think, well, dammit.

In Sum:

As a swan song, this is one helluva record. Short, at only 7 songs, it still contains more than enough to keep folks happy for a long time. Death looms large over a lot of it, along with a sense of a life well-lived but with so many more thoughts to follow and share and create, and so with a sadness that time is not on his side… I really thought the jazz elements made this record what it was. Sure, there’s so much else going on, most of it more important, but that saxophone was the glue, the common line, the recognizeable relief (but never the fool).

Truly an excellent goodbye to his fans. Even if he hadn’t died right after this dropped, this would still have earned most of the accolades it received.

FUCK CANCER.

 

* Dollar Days lyrics:

Cash girls suffer me, I’ve got no enemies
I’m walking down
It’s nothing to me
It’s nothing to see

If I never see the English evergreens I’m running to
It’s nothing to me
It’s nothing to see

I’m dying to
Push their backs against the grain
And fool them all again and again
I’m trying to

We bitches tear our magazines
Those Oligarchs with foaming mouths come
Now and then
Don’t believe for just one second I’m forgetting you
I’m trying to
I’m dying to

Dollar days
Survival sex honour stretching tails to necks
I’m falling down
It’s nothing to me
It’s nothing to see

If I never see the English evergreens I’m running to
It’s nothing to me
It’s nothing to see

I’m dying to
Push their backs against the grain
And fool them all again and again
I’m trying to

It’s all gone wrong but on and on
The bitter nerve ends never end
I’m falling down
Don’t believe for just one second I’m forgetting you
I’m trying to
I’m dying to
I’m trying to
I’m dying to
I’m trying to
I’m dying to
I’m trying to
I’m dying to
I’m trying to
I’m dying to

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Posted on March 8, 2017, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. Haunting, heavy record man, verrryyy gooood though…
    Milo.

    Like

  2. I’ve only heard the ‘singles’ from this one. My pre-order went pear-shaped and I never bought it after that as I heard some not too flattering things about the second pressing. Still, I’ll snag it at some point… cheers for reminding me that this is awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the shout out. I am glad you got this album. Hard to believe it has been over a year since his passing.

    Like

  4. I’m the dissenter I’m afraid. Totally left me cold this album and not in a cool interstellar way either.

    Like

  5. Hard to separate the events from the music, that’s for sure. When I included it in my ‘best of’ 2016 (in a post called English Evergreens) I found it rather difficult to write about, so enjoyed your run through of the tracks Aaron.

    https://vinylconnection.com.au/2017/01/03/english-evergreens/

    Like

    • I’d say nigh on impossible to separate them, seeing as how he knew he was dying as he made the record! That’s some serious weight to carry, for sure.

      Thanks for liking my from the gut approach, it’s all I’ve got!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I find reviews by non-huge fans quite interesting (like when you heard the first two weezer albums for the first time last year) – neat to hear different perspectives!

    Like

    • Oh yeah, Weezer! I remember doing that. I still like Pinkerton better than Blue… anyway.

      Yeah, I don’t know where I fall on the spectrum of Bowie fandom. Between Superfan and Couldn’t Care Less, I’d say I’m a strong Know The Hits And Generally Like Whatever Else I Hear.

      I’m glad you appreciate my perspective, though. From the other side of the coin, I like writing about things that challenge me. I mostly write about things that I bought ‘cos I know I’m gonna love it, which is why most of my reviews could be boiled down to one word: WAHOO! Listening to something a wee bit outside my wheelhouse makes me work for it!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Was absolutely obsessed with Blackstar when it came out. After Bowie died just days after releasing the album took on a whole new meaning for everyone. I can’t listen to it now without feeling an eery, haunting chill. In some ways it enhances the musical experience, in others it just makes me a little sad. Great post!

    https://tenmoreminutesblog.wordpress.com

    Like

    • Thank you again, NocturnalJen. Chilling is a great word to describe it. I hope you get the enhancement part more often than you get the sadness part!

      I also did the No Plan EP the following day, there’s three non-album tracks on that one. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Bowie was an immensely talented man whose music is never to be forgotten. Looks as if this final record has some of his best stuff.

    Like

  9. They are broadcasting live from the Bathouse, where they are recording the new album.

    Like

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