CD reviews: David Bowie, VietNam, Atoms for Peace
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
David BowieThe Next Day/Columbia
Since a health scare caused him to abandon a tour back in 2004, David Bowie has been taking it pretty easy. He’s recorded a few singles and made a few appearances, but many fans figured the former Ziggy Stardust had all but retired.
Now comes “The Next Day,” Bowie’s first album of completely new material in almost a decade.
So has that decade of relaxation proven to be beneficial to Bowie’s songwriting?
From the angry and assertive opening title track on through the rest of the album, it is evident that, even at the age of 66, Bowie’s creative juices are still flowing.
Less industrial and electronic than his output in the ’90s, “The Next Day” instead returns Bowie to real rock ’n’ roll, from the poppy “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” to the melancholy “Where Are We Now?” to “Valentine’s Day,” which is as catchy a song as Bowie has ever written.
Also great is “Dancing Out in Space,” which itself is actually danceable.
Bowie fans hoping for a tour to support this new album will likely be disappointed. Bowie has expressed zero interest in touring, and isn’t even doing interviews for the new album. But hey, look on the bright side, you have a new Bowie album to enjoy.
Key Tracks: “Where Are We Now,” “Valentine’s Day,” “Dancing Out in Space”
VietNamAn A.merican D.ream/Mexican Summer
Listening to “Kitchen Kongas” by the band VietNam, one might get the idea that the writer and frontman Michael Gerner is a bit unstable. That is in no way meant to be a cut at Gerner; quite the contrary.
Eccentricities like the ones that show up on “An A.merican D.ream” are welcome to those of us who don’t need auto-tune or copycat sounds.
Gerner has a lot to say on this new album, and through songs such as “Stucco Roofs” and “Flyin’,” Gerner gets to express himself in spades.
Each of the songs on “An A.merican D.ream” seem to emerge from some dream-drenched background to have its individual say before fading back into the ether.
Particularly beautiful is “Fight Water With Fire,” which emerges from a deceptively simple guitar riff to become the heart and soul of the album.
The entire album reminds you of the days when content, as well as a healthy dose of experimentation, still truly mattered in the record business.
The album also marks the return of that feeling of joy that comes from listening to a record from beginning to end.
For the more musically curious and adventurous, VietNam will be performing at The Royal American on Friday night. See Page 16 for details.
Key Tracks: “Kitchen Kongas,” “Fight Water With Fire,” “Flyin’ ”
Atoms for PeaceAmok/XL
The history of rock ’n’ roll abounds with supergroups: bands made up of members of other notable bands. From Crosby, Stills & Nash and Blind Faith in the ’60s to more recent collaborations such as Audioslave and Velvet Revolver, the material might be hit or miss, but it is almost always interesting to see what the group of musicians has up its collective sleeve.
The latest supergroup calls itself Atoms for Peace. Made up of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and former R.E.M. drummer Joey Waronker, as well as musicians Nigel Godrich and Mauro Refosco, this supergroup definitely features one of the more diverse lineups in recent memory.
Originally formed in 2009 to serve as Yorke’s backing band for his solo tour supporting the album “The Eraser,” the band began experimenting a bit while on the road and soon was producing its own original music.
The first thing you’re likely to notice while listening to “Amok,” the new album from Atoms for Peace, is that the normally sullen and emotionally fragile Yorke actually seems like he might be having fun on more than a few of the songs.
From the South American-flavored electronica of “Before Your Very Eyes ...” to the mysterious yet upbeat “Ingenue” to the funky “Stuck Together Pieces,” this is an album that seems to be going five different directions at once.
While that can make for some interesting listening, it also is ultimately the album’s weakness.
By flitting here and there to various styles and tempos with only the element of electronica to bring them together, there is a disjointed feel to the CD. Still, in an age where a song about a thrift shop can top the charts, we should encourage this sort of experimentation.
Key Tracks: “Stuck Together Pieces,” “Ingenue,” “Before Your Very Eyes ...”
By Devin Grant