Tag Archives: Reviews

2013 ➤ Bowie is Go! Tasters for this week’s record-breaking V&A exhibition

+++V&A video trailer for the new exhibition, David Bowie is

➢ David Bowie is the enigmatic title of a retrospective exhibition of 300 possessions drawn from Bowie’s personal archive displayed at London’s Victoria & Albert museum, March 23–Aug 11. Appropriately, this week his first album in ten years, The Next Day, sits at No 1 in the Official UK Album Chart. It’s his ninth UK No 1 album (though spookily neither of his recent singles releases is anywhere near the singles chart). Before the V&A show launches, ticket sales exceed 42,000, more than double the advance sales of previous exhibitions at the museum. A few tickets are still available by booking online, in person in Kensington, or by phone +44 (0)20 7907 7073.

FROM THE BOWIE COMMENTARIAT

➢ David Bowie, the Return – Tony Parsons, Miranda Sawyer and La Roux’s Elly Jackson discuss Bowie’s music and influence for Radio 4’s Front Row (broadcast March 7, available on iPlayer for a year). Presenter John Wilson is guided through the V&A exhibits by the show’s curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh.

David Bowie, V&A exhibition, White Cloth Gallery, Leeds

Brian Duffy’s photography for the Lodger album sleeve 1979. © The Duffy Archive Limited

➢ The Duffy Collection of iconic Bowie images – which include three of his most famous album covers – goes on display May 2–June 4 at the White Cloth Gallery in Leeds LS1 4HT. The show documents Duffy’s special relationship with Bowie over ten years.

➢ A cryptic guide to the typography of Bowie – The V&A exhibition catalogue dissected by Gavin Lucas at Creative Review, 4 March 2013:

Jon Abbott at graphic design studio Barnbrook said of the book David Bowie Is: “We wanted to create an engaging pop-object for an audience who have come to expect the unconventional” … The book’s body typeface, Priori Serif, is one from Jonathan Barnbrook’s own foundry, Virus Fonts. Drawn by Jonathan Barnbrook and Marcus Leis Allion, the typeface was influenced by British typographers Gill and Johnston, and fittingly it found one of its first outings on the cover of Bowie’s 2002 album, Heathen … / Continued at Creative Review

Celia Philo,Brian Duffy,David Bowie, V&A exhibition,

One of the rejected cover shots for the Aladdin Sane album taken by photographer Brian Duffy in 1973. © The Duffy Archive Limited

➢ The day that lightning struck Aladdin – In 1973, Celia Philo directed the photo shoot for David Bowie’s album Aladdin Sane. The result was one of the most iconic images ever created. She talks to Stylist magazine, 2013:

Sometimes, when you’re doing something that you know is going to be good, it’s because it’s come from an extreme end of the spectrum of experience: either it’s incredibly hard work, or it comes together almost effortlessly. The photographic shoot for the cover of Aladdin Sane happened like magic. Its success was the result of a lucky collaboration of people … / Celia Philo, continued at Stylist

David Bowie, V&A exhibition,Lower Third,Swinging 60s,

Setting out as Swinging 60s Mod: Bowie promo shot in 1966 for his first single on Pye, Can’t Help Thinking About Me, with his band The Lower Third which included producer Tony Hatch on piano. The NME decided: “Absorbing melody, weakish tune”

➢ Iain R Webb: How David Bowie liberated my wardrobe – As a 14-year-old boy living in a West Country village, Webb, the former Blitz Kid and fashion editor and now RCA professor, thought David Bowie’s style statements were a gift. And so have generations of fashion designers. Read feature in The Independent, March 16, 2013:

Bowie’s influence on my life has been major, from the fundamental desire to never be labelled or pigeonholed to my profound love of glitter and penchant for a spikey haircut. And I am not alone … / Iain R Webb, continued at The Independent

➢ Glam! The Performance of Style (Feb 8–May 12) is a seriously well-curated multi-media show at Tate Liverpool surveying the 1971–75 phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic, across the whole spectrum of painting, sculpture, installation art, film, photography and performance. The in-depth survey comes in two halves, drawing a clear distinction between the playful subversion of pop music and fashion that characterised the British glam wave, and the American, which was driven much more profoundly by gender politics. Well worth a daytrip to Liverpool.

➢ 1970, Where to draw a line between glitter and glam: naff blokes in Bacofoil versus starmen with pretensions — analysis by Shapersofthe80s.

➢ How Glam Changed Britain, by Gary Kemp – feature written by the Spandau Ballet songwriter for The Times, Jan 28, 2013.

♫ EXPLORING BOWIE’S MUSIC

David Bowie, V&A exhibition, ,Berlin,Tony Visconti, Hansa Studios

Berlin 1976: Bowie with moustache, Tony Visconti and assistant engineer, Edu Meyer, taken in the control room of Hansa Studios by Meyer’s wife, Barbara

♫ BBC Radio 6Music celebrates the life and work of David Bowie throughout Easter week, March 25–31. Gems from the archive feature concerts and interviews which have not been heard in 30 years.

♫ 2013, Shock and awe verdicts – Shapersofthe80s rounds up critical opinion on Bowie’s born-again single Where Are We Now? and the masterful new album The Next Day – “beautiful, obsessive and deliciously cruel”.

♫ News of special vinyl release at Bowie’s website – His second 2013 single, The Stars, is scheduled for a limited edition vinyl 7inch 45 Record Store Day release on April 20. Backed with Where Are We Now?


❏ Music video for the 1979 song DJ (above) sees Bowie sporting a pink onesie dungaree outfit designed by Willy Brown and walking through London streets being snogged by fans, both boys and girls.

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➤ Bowie’s first album for a decade is beautiful, obsessive and deliciously cruel

EAGERLY AWAITED REVIEWS OF THE NEXT DAY,
BOWIE’S 30TH STUDIO ALBUM, DUE ON MARCH 11

The Next Day ,David Bowie,albums,pop music,Tony Visconti ,reviews ➢ An absolute wonder that’s bold and baffling, writes Neil McCormick in the Daily Telegraph, Feb 25:

It is an enormous pleasure to report that the new David Bowie album is an absolute wonder: urgent, sharp-edged, bold, beautiful and baffling, an intellectually stimulating, emotionally charged, musically jagged, electric bolt through his own mythos and the mixed-up, celebrity-obsessed, war-torn world of the 21st century.

Musically, it is stripped and to the point, painted in the primal colours of rock: hard drums, fluid bass, fizzing guitars, shaded by splashes of keyboard and dirty rasps of horns. The 14 songs are short and spiky, often contrasting that kind of patent Bowie one-note declarative drawl with sweet bursts of melodic escape that hit you like a sugar rush. Bowie’s return from a decade’s absence feels very present, although full of sneaky backward glances… / Continued at Telegraph online

➢ Despite the lyrical density, the album’s success rests on simple pleasures, writes Alexis Petridis at Guardian online today

The Next Day offers what you might call an index of Bowiean obsessions… The mutual respect between Bowie and Scott Walker is well-documented – an effusive 50th birthday tribute from the elusive former Scott Engel famously reduced Bowie to tears live on Radio 1 – and it’s Walker’s latterday work that much of The Next Day resembles, at least in that the lyrics are so dense and allusive you occasionally feel in need of a set of York Notes to get through them.

Producer Tony Visconti has suggested that The Next Day is of a piece with 1979’s Lodger and, as on that record, Bowie spends a lot of The Next Day experimenting with his vocal delivery, offering, among other things, a peculiar nasal drone on the title track and a doomy, tortured lowing that recalls Walker – him again – on the closing Heat… [This is] an album that’s thought-provoking, strange and filled with great songs… / Continued at Guardian online

➢ In the FT, Ludovic Hunter-Tilney perceives an album thick with visions of ageing, death and violence

Bowie’s vague but vital sense of terror is one of the most provoking and enigmatic aspects of his first album in 10 years… The visions of ageing, death and violence that run through the album… climax in You Feel So Lonely You Could Die, an unsettling kiss-off to a would-be suicide (I can see you as a corpse hanging from a beam), incongruously played as a ballad. Bowie’s idea of terror, an existential dread, follows Burroughs’ “frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork” – a sentiment that Bowie rephrased in his Queen duet Under Pressure: It’s the terror of knowing/ What this world is about. / Continued at FT.com

The Stars (Are Out Tonight),David Bowie,vinyl , singles,pop music,Tony Visconti ,reviews

Another single release: The Stars is scheduled for a limited edition vinyl 7inch 45 Record Store Day release on April 20, 2013. Backed with Where Are We Now? Before that, on April 1, the album will be released as a 180 gram, 17-track double vinyl set

➢ More mystery than any other living singer,
asserts Chris Roberts at the Quietus:

Fortunately, [the album]’s great. I mean: it’s not just good, it’s great. No wild pioneering sonic experiments here: it’s primarily a “rock” album with plentiful twists, with the closest sibling being Scary Monsters… I sometimes found myself pining for more ballads or tangents to break up the album’s mid-section run of half a dozen roaring thumpers. Yet it starts with six mercurial wonders that have you grinning because he’s pulled this comeback thing off big-time. They tease, tumble and twirl, referencing his past in flashes but refusing to relinquish their own personalities and identities. Moreover, it closes with two mind-blowing, show-stopping, grandstanding epics: one as baroque as Rock And Roll Suicide ONLY MORE SO; one as frazzled and sinister and ticking as Scott Walker’s (ok, The Walker Brothers’) The Electrician.

So more than half the album is fantastic, and the rest is very, very strong… Every Bowie biography from now on is going to have a lot more cod psychology to do. And even after all these years, all these artistic statements, we don’t know what’s a confession and what’s a character. The interface between the two (substance and style seduce each other, Miller and Monroe in one misfit) affords Bowie more mystery than any other living singer, still… / Continued online at Thequietus

The Next Day ,David Bowie,albums,pop music,Tony Visconti ,reviews ➢ In the NME dated March 2, Emily Mackay says the in-your-face pace of The Next Day rarely slackens

It’s the sheer vibrancy of the new album that strikes you hardest. In contrast to Outside or Earthling, there’s no sense that it’s the need for another radical reinvention that has pulled Bowie back to music-making. These songs feel like stories that insisted on being told, bright and aggressive and poppy. The title track sets the tone. A cocky strut seething with rage… it boils with lust, paranoia and megalomania… This album is about songcraft… it absorbs his past and moves on, hungry for more… / Continued in the NME, along with an exclusive five-pager on the making of the album

➢ Bowie is in masterful voice and his band are at full throttle,
says Simon Price in the Independent, March 3:

The strangely artless artwork (the “Heroes” cover blanked out with a white square and the title in pseudo-Helvetica). The teaser single Where Are We Now?, wherein this Englishman in New York reminisced about old friends and Old Europe. Now it’s here, and it’s clear: The Next Day’s primary concern is the delicious cruelty with which the past haunts the present. Just walking the dead, indeed.

This album is not David Bowie’s first overtly nostalgic work, the first to reference his own career, nor the first to feature meditations on aging, but it repeats those tricks with immense style. On Love Is Lost, he brutally commands you to “say goodbye to the thrills of life … wave goodbye to the life without pain”. On How Does The Grass Grow?, amid Fifties ya-ya-ya-yas and snatches of Bond theme, he daydreams If the clocks could go backwards, then the girls would fill with blood and the grass would be green / Continued at Independent online

➢ We’re told Bowie made his first album in 10 years because “today he definitely has something to say”. In the Huffington Post (March 3) Michael Hogan says it’s up to us to ask, What is he trying to say?

You get the sense, from the music but also from the video [for The Stars Are Out Tonight] with Tilda Swinton, that Bowie has ambivalent feelings about his distance from the cultural tide. There was a time when he defined it, followed by a long period when he tried but perhaps failed to steer it in more esoteric directions; now all he can do is remind us how much he did to shape it – and impart a few lessons to those travelling in his wake.

Like so many ageing artists before him, it seems, Bowie has learned the Big Lesson: no matter how much money you make, how many sex partners you corral, or even how many masterpieces you produce, we’re all riding a one-way conveyor belt into the furnace of oblivion. Does that mean everything we’ve done is meaningless? Not really, Bowie seems to suggest on Where Are We Now?, As long as there’s sun / as long as there’s rain / as long as there’s fire / as long as there’s me / as long as there’s you . / Continued at Huffington Post

David Bowie, portraits, Jimmy King, William Burroughs

Freeze. And freeze again: Let’s not forget the shadow of Burroughs and his “frozen moment”. One of this year’s few official portraits of Bowie, taken by Jimmy King

➢ The Stars single reviewed: Bowie’s psychodrama mocks the rockiness of godliness

➢ Riddle of the train Bowie could not have taken in
Where Are We Now?

➢ 2013, The Bowiesconti proxy has spoken – Shapersofthe80s translates revelations from the Visconti interview

➢ 2013, Bowie officially not “devastated” as fab retrospective show goes ahead at the V&A

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2013 ➤ Shock and awe verdicts on Bowie’s born-again masterpiece

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❚ SURPRISE WAS THE SECRET WEAPON. Even the star’s longtime London publicists were told only on Friday. For months there must have been “sudden death” clauses in his 35 collaborators’ contracts to deter them from breathing a word about the 14 songs on his first album in a decade, or about yesterday’s haunting new single, realised in a resourcefully resonant music video that navigates those fertile but often fraught landmarks from Berlin in the 70s as if in Google Street View… every one a turning point… ghosts from the tragic city’s Cold-War hinterland as well as the singer’s own.

Driven by piano and synth, the song is a bittersweet elegy. Its poignant title asks Where Are We Now? and is rendered with suitable despair, while the accompanying images reinforce the singer’s seemingly mournful contemplations on “walking the dead”. Yet all comes clearer with repeated viewing when the self-deprecating humour brightens your moist eyes. The old fella’s tremulous voice, eroded half an octave lower than we remember, is courageously confessing with dignity and relief what all buddhists seek in the journey through life – enlightenment. There may be melancholy in his acceptance of mortality but it is unsentimental. “As long as there’s sun / As long as there’s rain” and crucially “As long as there’s fire”, then “You know, you know”.

 Where Are We Now? , David Bowie, comeback,Next Day, video,Tony Oursler ,Tony Visconti

Bowie and soulmate as one cuddly toy: their faces are projected onto the puppet-like dummy, Berlin’s Reichstag in the city tour is projected behind them during Tony Oursler’s video for Where Are We Now? (© Iso/Columbia)

The news broke at 5am in the UK (midnight in New York) on his 66th birthday, and the world’s media suddenly received the good news like a shot in the arm. No, Bowie had not retired, laid low after heart surgery in 2004, but was back with a bang. By breakfast-time BBC Radio’s flagship current affairs show Today rushed a critic into the studio to enthuse about the new ballad as legacy from Bowie’s so-called Berlin Trilogy of albums, 1976-79, produced by Tony Visconti, as is the new album. The veteran anchor John Humphrys empathised with a “weariness” he detected in the voice.

By 3pm the single was topping the British iTunes chart and by midnight the next day’s national press were trumpeting their finest prose stylists in spreads devoted to the last of the godlike popstars who define their era. This is the sizzle The Thin White Duke still generates. If Mr Humphrys thinks Bowie was sounding his age, in The Times Caitlin Moran thinks the song shows every year of Bowie’s age beautifully…

THE FOXED VOICE

➢ Caitlin Moran in The Times says Bowie arrived out of retirement overnight, like unexpected snow
It is a worn voice, a gentle voice, a voice with small burn-holes, slight foxing. Of all the things, it most reminded me of David Attenborough narrating some extraordinary murmuration of starlings, or a thaw. A voice that has a superior grasp of how large the universe is; a voice that has come to appreciate the value in simply being alive.

THE LIVING POET

➢ Poet Alan Jenkins blogs at The Times Literary Supp and shares his elation at the arrival of a masterpiece
Almost from the first and unfailingly ever since, Bowie has been a byword for musical boldness and invention. His instinctive power as a lyricist has perhaps been somewhat overlooked – his characteristic note a combination of the shy and portentous, of confessional detail and unembarrassed declamation, of raw truthfulness and authentically barmy allegorizing. Where…? takes us haltingly into personal history and personal mortality, distilling from its simple, beautiful progressions an atmosphere of bewildered sorrow that is not entirely dispelled by the tender-stoical declarations of the final moments.

 Where Are We Now? , David Bowie, comeback,Next Day, video,Tony Oursler ,Tony Visconti

Quavering voice and unflattering close-up: pension-age Bowie ruminates on the passing of time in his stark yet tender lyrics (© Iso/Columbia)

THE RETRO MUSIC

➢ Neil McCormick in the Telegraph declares the perfect comeback
Lush, stately, beautifully strange, weaving resonant piano chords, decaying synths and echoing drums around a simple chord progression and a weary, tenderly understated, quietly defiant vocal, the ageing Starman reminisces about days in Berlin… It is to the slightly wonky, retro-futuristic ambience of late Seventies rock electronica that Where Are We Now? returns … It was a musical style influenced by one-time collaborator Brian Eno and once heralded for its icy futurism, but now it sounds familiar enough to be instantly accessible yet oddly contemporary. Retro synths are all the rage once again, early electronica deemed to have a quality of human warmth often absent in hi-tech digital pop.

THE SELF PROMOTER

➢ Alexis Petridis in The Guardian on an object lesson in record promotion
The main reason it’s created such a fuss is simply because no one knew. It’s incredible that, in an era of gossip websites and messageboard rumours, one of the biggest stars in the world, presumed retired, can spend two years making a new album without the merest whisper of it reaching the public. But somehow he did it… Whatever The Next Day sounds like [the album due on March 11], he’s turned it into the biggest release of 2013 by the simple expedient of doing absolutely nothing other than make an album. Furthermore, he’s managed to maintain the myth and mystique that was always central to his stardom and his art in a world where rock and pop music has almost no myth or mystique left.

THE WHISPERING SAGE

➢ At the Quietus Chris Roberts asks: After a decade of artlessness Bowie is back. So why are so many clowns complaining?
The delicately-sung single, Where Are We Now?, is not “instant”, or flash. It is not a sad by-numbers attempt to recapture old glories. It is very much Bowie, but it is a quivering ghost of a Bowie song, the imprint of his fabulous past gently laid over a forlorn, elegiac yet life-affirming drape of meditations and reveries about missing the old Europe and, possibly, youth. It is becoming of the man, and of the star. And it is becoming obvious that, after all this time, he wouldn’t have let it out of the house if he didn’t believe it would add to his body of work and polish his mythology. It is spectral, frail, yearning without chest-beating, candid in its few, clipped phrases and sighs concerning the heart’s filthy lessons. The crooning peacock is now a whispering sage.

BOWIE’S BERLIN SIGHTS DECODED

➢ Helen Pidd, The Guardian’s former Berlin correspondent, helps identify key Berlin landmarks in Bowie’s video
In the 20s Potsdamer Platz was the place to be, full of sexy lesbians in smoking jackets and the sort of boys Christopher Isherwood fancied. Then we bombed it. After the war, the East Germans built the Berlin Wall around it, placing it in a no man’s land. If you’ve seen Wim Wenders’ film Wings of Desire, you’ll remember the old man sitting on a sofa in what purported to be the deserted Potsdamer Platz…

 Where Are We Now? , David Bowie, comeback,Next Day, video,Tony Oursler ,Tony Visconti

Bowie as art student: ironic coda to the video when he looks in at the auto repair shop beneath the Berlin apartment where he once lived (© Iso/Columbia)

The archetypal Berlin art studio-cum-squat: This is a modern cliche of the German capital. Bowie, in his enigmatic slogan T-shirt, looks like any other foreign immigrant who has come to Berlin to “do my art” (read: go to Berghain and get an asymmetric haircut). Like many of the city’s young pretenders, he is carrying a notebook and no doubt tells people at squat parties he is a writer.

ECHOES OF EXTRAS?

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❏ And in lighter vein… More than one fan has noticed that parts of the new melody bear a resemblance to Pathetic Little Fat Man, Bowie’s improvised tribute to Ricky Gervais in his BBC sitcom Extras in 2006 (above)

Where Are We Now? , David Bowie, comeback,Next Day

Banjo-man! Exclusive birthday photograph (Jimmy King )

➢ Future plans and memorabilia at the newly rejuvenated official Bowie website

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➤ Dylan’s journey from A Tribe Called Quest to the last word on Zappa

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➢ According to i-D online . . .
“ Former editor at i-D and now editor-in-chief of British GQ, Dylan Jones is an arbiter of taste, instigator of style and in possession of an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music. Uninspired by the lack of subjectivity many music biographies take, Dylan Jones began working on his own dictionary of popular music 30 years ago. Scribbling down scattered thoughts on paper, Dylan collated mountains of unorganised text which have since evolved to fill the 838 pages of his latest book, The Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music… / continued at i-D online, plus video interview above

➢ The Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music by Dylan Jones (download to iPhone, iPad or iPod, iTunes, £6.49)

➢ The Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music (paperback 908 pages, £22.67)

WHAT REVIEWERS HAVE SAID

➢ Helen Brown at The Telegraph:

Dylan Jones, Kindle, Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music ,books,Bedford Square Books, Amiably opinionated, funny and revealing, this is a knowingly subjective A-Z of the artists Jones fancies writing about from Abba (Mamma Mia transported him to “a pink fluffy place called Abbaville. I loved it”) to Frank Zappa (the early Mothers of Invention albums sound “like Tom Lehrer made them on acid”). He explores the emotional appeal of artists he loves and is bothered when others admired by his friends leave him cold. Some subjects get a line, others an essay. Jones’s tastes tend towards old-school cool jazz, easy listening and lounge music. No surprise to learn that the men’s magazine editor has been in thrall to the slickly suited, high-rolling rat pack since hearing them on his mum’s turntable as a kid.

➢ Amazon’s jsquared on the Kindle edition:

As someone quite new to many of these bands, I loved this. Dylan Jones’ writing is funny and pleasantly surprising, helped along by his personal recollections of interviews with a variety of band members and famous folk which brings the stories to light rather than feeling self-involved. It’s a perfect gift for a brother with more records than friends! If my boyfriend hadn’t lent me his Kindle, I wouldn’t have read it. I recommend the Blues Music section, that’s what got me hooked.

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➤ That Boy George bio-drama gets a repeat — take it all with a large pinch of salt!

Worried About The Boy, theBlitzClub,Boy George,Daniel Wallace,Douglas Booth,BBC, TV drama

Worried About The Boy: Queens of London’s Blitz Club and pioneers of the 80s New Romantic style, Christopher (Daniel Wallace) and George (Douglas Booth) as fictionalised in the BBC drama

❚ FOR VIEWERS CATCHING UP TONIGHT on the repeat of Worried About The Boy, the BBC’s sanitised drama about Boy George’s teen romancings, read how Shapersofthe80s canvassed the reactions of original Blitz Kids live during its first transmission in 2010.

➢ 2010, Here exclusively at Shapersofthe80s, ex-Blitz Kids give their verdicts on the TV drama Worried About the Boy

➢ 1980, Three key men in Boy George’s life — who was really who in the fictionalised BBC version of real life

➢ View WATB clips at the BBC TV website

GEORGE’S FINAL VERDICT, TWEETED MARCH 8:

Boy George, Twitter, March 2012, Worried About the Boy, BBC drama

Tweeted by Boy George, March 8, 2012

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