Album: The Next Day
Artist: David Bowie
Grade: A-   

When it seemed likely that after ten years of radio-silence the only projects David Bowie had in mind were perhaps novel ways to get his daughter to eat eggs, the world awoke on January 8th this year to a serene new single (waiting “like unexpected snow,” as Caitlin Moran excitedly put it) and the promise of a new album, stealthily crafted over two years. The childlike, jabbering excitement has yet to subside.

Is this hype justified however? Or is the emperor bollock naked on catwalk? Well, the collection is as varied and consistent an assortment as Bowie has ever produced; fantastically eclectic and dissonant both in theme and style, with unexpected instruments, key changes and tempos jarringly intervening throughout, demanding your attention. Even better is the scope of the lyrics, ranging from hysterical, allegorical first-person accounts of tyrants’ bodies rotting in hollow trees, troubled teenage soldiers, and bizarre allusions to Nabokov and gun massacres. Some highlights include the terse baritone sax-propelled funk of ‘The Dirty Boys’, the frenetic, deranged opening title track, and the stunningly macabre ‘How Does The Grass Grow?’.

Less thrilling are ‘I’d Rather Be High’ and the ponderous ‘Love is Lost’ which test the patience, while the closing track ‘Heat’ reveres Scott Walker’s solo career almost to the point of parody.

As the various conclaves decide whether this will inherit the legendary title of ‘‘His Best Since Scary Monsters’’,  we can note with relief that Bowie is indeed back once more, doing what he was beamed down onto this planet to do: make fantastic records and weird us out a bit.

In A Nutshell: For those curious to know what the fuss over a 66-year-old is all about, this is an excellent record.  For the Bowie fan it is a fantastic one.