UK, 2016, art rock
David Bowie – ★: There’s so much mystique surrounding this album. This is the only Bowie work where I’m caught up in the non-music considerations associated with it: he knew he had cancer, he kept it a secret from the public, and he made this album while in considerable pain and suffering, the title track and “Lazarus” being clear meditations not only on death but on the imminent end to his artistic voice. This is my Kennedy assassination album. My mom tells me that everyone from her generation knows exactly where they were the moment they heard about the murder. The events of my life at the death of David Bowie are etched into my memory. The night before I heard the news, I was playing D&D with my friends. I was playing a flamboyant bard based on Bowie’s illimitable stage role-playing ability. Some of my friends weren’t too familiar with Bowie’s different stage looks, so I got my phone out, googled him, and was showing his photos around the table. And then I just gushed on and on about what wonderful an artist—not just singer but artist—Bowie is. It didn’t take long for eyes to glaze over. Oh well. The next morning I was at the store and got a message from my friend telling me Bowie had died. I just stopped stunned in the aisle. And can you believe it: “Space Oddity” was playing on the store’s system. My wife, who shops there often, told me the song was part of that month’s rotation, so it wasn’t like the manager threw on some Bowie in tribute. It was just a coincidence, but it was one with powerful meaning for me. I was playing a Bowie character, had just been praising him, now to find out he’s dead, with one of his songs playing in a random place. Later that evening, my friend brought over a bottle of whiskey, and we drank it while listening to our favorite Bowie songs. He actually has more songs about death / transcendence than one might realize. Anyway, about this album: it’s got it all. Bowie doesn’t stick to one style but uses his swan song to do what he’s always done—stretch his wings and not be content with one thing. He mixes jazz and even electronic into the tracks. By the way, if you’re into vinyl, the LP packaging is lovely, including a beautiful booklet with some fine art and photography.