Now The Man Who Fell To Earth has sung his last song, we tune into 'Blackstar' and bask in Bowie's sound and vision one last time...
BY DEE IVA
Our copy of 'Blackstar', David Bowie's final album, arrived on the day that rock's most original and innovative artist shuffled off this mortal coil. Released on his birthday, it became immediately apparent that this was his parting gift to us and that, as always, he knew exactly what he was doing.
'Blackstar''s stark cover – a black star on a white background for the CD and a black sleeve with a die-cut star for the vinyl release – is the first Bowie album not to feature an image of Bowie himself. A recurring motif throughout his career, it’s only fitting that the Starman chose this device to represent himself at the end. The strange rune-like shapes below it are fragments, shattered pieces of a star that once was whole. Bowie's message is loud and clear.
Jonathan Barnbrook’s design for Bowie's 28th studio album is sharp, elegant and utterly beautiful. Apart from the CD front cover, the rest of the sleeve and the accompanying booklet is a study in black. Black pages, with shiny, practically invisible ink and moody photography – you really have to look closely to decipher the lyrics within. Words are dotted around forming mini constellations and Bowie appears, blindfolded at times, dressed in black among the stars.
Having experimented with so many musical genres before, this time Bowie returns to his core. 'Blackstar' is very Bowie; it couldn’t have been created by anyone else and is made all the more poignant by lyrics on the title track that suggest he knew this would be his last album. 'Something happened on the day he died / Spirit rose a metre then stepped aside / Somebody else took his place then bravely cried / I'm a Blackstar'. Bowie’s love of mix and match works very well here as the song is split into two parts, shifting from haunting intro to melodic interlude and back again. Lasting nearly 10 minutes, it’s one of the longest singles ever released.
Second single Lazarus is frighteningly prophetic. Bowie tells us he’s in heaven and that he’ll be free ‘Just like that bluebird’. In hindsight it seems like he’s saying goodbye but the title is provocative as it suggests reincarnation, which he was a master of throughout his life.
In Girl Loves Me references to A Clockwork Orange abound, with vocabulary from Anthony Burgess’s seminal novel wrapping around more explicit lyrics, but it’s the final track which really hits home. I Can’t Give Everything Away is a classic Bowie number which could have been on 'Heroes' or 'Low'. It sounds like a hit single and is the perfect track for 'Blackstar' to bow out on. Of course, in the end, Bowie gave us everything and for that we’re truly grateful.