David Bowie - Reality - Bowie's real comeback

2006-03-29 18:28
Forget the fact that for the last 20 years the erstwhile rock 'n roll chameleon has been treading water, seemingly unable to either tap into the musical zeitgeist of his contemporaries or pave his own creative path forward. While Heathen (2001) showed a few tentative signs of creative rebirth, even the most die-hard Bowie head has got to admit that he just hasn't made a crucial record since, Let's Dance (1984). But what of his latest much anticipated magnum opus, Reality?

Well, the good news is that Reality is the sound of a singer re-discovering what made him want to write songs in the first place. Sure, it's a cliché but in many ways it's a distillation of past glories, a sonic de-and re-construction of best Bowie bits filtering into an inviting aural brew. There's the familiar garage glam inflected grooves of "New Killer Star" (think Aladdin Sane), the alienated urban ocean of "The Loneliest Guy" (cf. Low), the funk pop revivalism of "Never Get Old" (anyone for Sound and Vision?) and the wistful semi-acoustic jaunt of "Days" (yep, it's Hunky Dory).

Bowie also cleverly manages to transcend mere self-caricature, taking philosophically sardonic pot shots at his previous penchant for elusive pantomime ("Fall Dogs Bomb the Moon", "Bring Me the Disco King"). Yet as visceral readings of Jonathan Richman's noir garage anthem "Pablo Picasso" and George Harrison's aching psychedelic ballad "Try Some, Buy Some" prove, this is no mere ego-fuelled Madonna style excursion into the emotionally vacuous pitfalls of fame.

The release of any new David Bowie album is guaranteed to get even your most blase of rock fans excited. But is Reality just another clever disappointment?

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