In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s [the] feel of this record as whole that makes all the praise I have heard for Blackstar over the last few weeks so justified.”
I like David Bowie. I’m not some sort of animal who doesn’t like David Bowie. When he died recently, I was bummed and knew it was a huge loss for music, and art in general. But I also felt like I know that as simply a universal fact. I personally, have never had a Bowie epiphany. No record or song has ever hit me in a way that made me feel any sort of connection to his music the way it has hit millions of others. And here’s the thing, I have no doubt at all that I’m wrong and those millions are right.
I even tried to force a Bowie realisation right here in Bored and Dangerous by listening to Hunky Dory and Diamond Dogs. My liking of both records was way outweighed by my respect for them. I could recognise why people love them so much, even if I couldn’t quite get to that level myself. If any other musician died within a week of releasing an album, I would disregard any praise for that album, blaming it on grief and nostalgia. But there’s something about David Bowie that makes me pretty certain that Blackstar is as good as every single person has said it is.
The first half of the opening, titular epic sounds like a death march. Before turning into an acceptance of death and a celebration of life, recognised for what it is. No posthumous white washing or sugar coating. Just a sober, reflective, humble ascertation of who he was and how he saw himself.
With it’s almost funky bassline, and Bowie’s immediately recognisable vocals, ‘Tis a Pity She was Whore is so close to being a pop classic from the early 90s era Bowie. But the horn section things a slight haunting to the song that makes it upbeat, while also perfectly matching the mournfulness of the song that preceded it.
Written from “heaven”, and named after a bloke the bible reckons Jesus brought back form the dead, I take it that Lazarus is Dave’s way of saying he knew nothing short of a miracle would save him. And the combination of bass groove, and slow, dragging horns of lament, give the song a real other worldly feel to suit its celestial perspective.
All dissonance, tight loops and the feel of free form jamming to get to this point, Sue (or in a Season of Crime) is a hodge podge that would be a mess in any other hands. But the surety and confidence behind every note of Blackstar to this point makes it feel too assured and deliberate to ever even come close to being at risk of falling apart.
Gentle pianos, thoughtful sax as quiet as can be, with Bowie’s vocals bordering on falsetto… I’m probably reading too much into this, but Dollar Days sounds like a dying man letting everyone else know it’s going to be OK. Not necessarily lyrically, but I could imagine this song being used in a movie montage about that sort of thing.
The tinny, electronic drum beats, synth smoothness and wailing harmonica of I Can’t Give Everything Away is strangely dated in its overall production sound. Though the feel of this record as a whole brings a certain emotion to it that those musical ingredients wouldn’t normally generate. And it’s that feel of this record as whole that makes all the praise I have heard for Blackstar over the last few weeks so justified. I have no real personal connection to David Bowie or his music, and this record is overwhelming on the best possible way. It must be absolutely devastating to his serious fans. And again, I mean that in the best possible way.