With rumours of failing health and a complete lack of interest in music in general, the chances of a new Bowie record seemed, well, slim at best. Even when the rumour mill chuntered into action last night on Twitter, and his website disappeared for a bit, it was easy to disregard the idea as being nothing more than wishful thinking.
Because since that triple heart bypass and the whole ‘lollypop in the eye’ fiasco, the chances of David sitting down at his piano and knocking out another ‘Life On Mars’ seemed hugely unlikely.
But here we are. The day of his 66th birthday, and his first single in a decade. After the initial excitement over his return fades and we start to live with ‘Where Are We Now?’, what are we left with?
It’s instantly familiar, as anything with Bowie’s distinctive vocal is. And not far removed from the sense of pathos from that which drenched ‘The Loneliest Guy’ from his last record, 2003’s ‘Reality’. Except the vocals are slightly more cracked now. But stylistically, it’s less of a surprise than those who ignored that last album might think. As he sings about Berlin, and ‘a man lost in time, just walking the dead’, it’s epically sorrowful; this is Bowie in his old age. And it’s exactly what you’d want from him in his sixties.
Which means that it’s not inspired by any scary musical monsters that you could worry caught his attention during his wilderness years; it’s not another ‘Earthling’. This isn’t the big reinvention that you might have hoped music’s greatest chameleon to have come back with either, but that’s okay too. Never let me down, indeed.