Brand New — Sealed! David Bowie’s Final Studio Album, Beautifully Packaged Within A Clear, Hard Plastic Wallet Sleeve Housed In A Heavy Grade Die-Cut Gatefold Jacket. Includes Incredible 16-Page 12″ x 12″ Square Booklet Insert With Tone-On-Tone Overlays, Lyrics & Photos, & Coupon With Download Code For Digital Copy Of Full Album.
The luxurious ten-minute sprawl of the title track — a two-part suite stitched together by string feints and ominous saxophone — suggests David Bowie isn’t encumbered with commercial aspirations, but Blackstar neither alienates nor does it wander into uncharted territory. For all its odd twists, the album proceeds logically, unfolding with stately purpose and sustaining a dark, glassy shimmer. It is music for the dead of night but not moments of desolation; it’s created for the moment when today is over but tomorrow has yet to begin. Fittingly, the music itself is suspended in time, sometimes recalling the hard urban gloss of ’70s prog — Bowie’s work, yes, but also Roxy Music and, especially, the Scott Walker of Nite Flights — and sometimes evoking the drum’n’bass dabbling of the ’90s incarnation of the Thin White Duke, sounds that can still suggest a coming future, but in the context of this album these flourishes are the foundation of a persistent present. This comfort with the now is the most striking thing about Blackstar: it is the sound of a restless artist feeling utterly at ease not only within his own skin but within his own time. To that end, Bowie recruited saxophonist Donny McCaslin and several of his New York cohorts to provide the instrumentation (and drafted disciple James Murphy to contribute percussion on a pair of cuts), a cast that suggests Blackstar goes a bit farther out than it actually does. Cannily front-loaded with its complicated cuts, Blackstar starts at the fringe and works its way back toward familiar ground, ending with a trio of pop songs dressed in fancy electronics. These don’t erase the heaviness of the opening quartet but such a sequencing suggests Blackstar is difficult when the main pleasure of the record is how utterly at ease it all feels: Bowie’s joy in emphasizing the art in art-pop is palpable and its elegant, unhurried march resonates deeply. – AMG
★ (Blackstar) (9:57)
‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore (4:52)
Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) (4:40)
Girl Loves Me (4:51)
Dollar Days (4:44)
I Can’t Give Everything Away (5:47)