David Bowie is back. Seven years after the singer received emergency angioplasty surgery while on tour in Germany, Bowie released a new single, “Where Are We Now?”, on Jan. 8, his 66th birthday. The single preceded the album The Next Day, Bowie’s first collection of new songs in 10 years. The Next Day makes an impressive debut this week on the Billboard 200 album chart, arriving at No. 2, just behind the new Bon Jovi album.

As for “Where Are We Now?”, it achieves the spacey reverie heard in Bowie’s songs about imaginary astronaut Major Tom. Instead of being lost in space, however, a resigned Bowie sings of “just walking the dead” in Berlin.

There’s a “China Girl” tempo and sound in “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” a song about the immortality of stars of the celluloid kind. Bowie casts his own stardom aside, placing himself among commoners, singing, “They watch us from behind their shades. Brigitte, Jack, and Kate and Brad … Stars are never sleeping, dead ones and the living.”

“I’d Rather Be High” is another highlight, featuring psychedelic, Indian-flavored rock, vocal glissandos and militaristic snare drum.

The upbeat “Dancing Out in Space” and “How Does the Grass Grow?” are more examples of Bowie and Tony Visconti, the American producer of Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World, Diamond Dogs and Young Americans albums as well as T. Rex’s Electric Warrior and The Slider, working in top form. Guitarist Earl Slick, a member of Bowie’s band in the mid-1970s, also contributes to the welcomed return of a classic, long silent rock star.

John Wirt


Few teams can write an anthem like Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. The pair may work with additional songwriters to achieve rocking, paean-like status, but whether delivering a hair-metal hymn (“Bad Medicine”) or a motivational canticle (“It’s My Life”) this duo knows how to rouse and rouse big. That’s why “What About Now” is frustrating. After the country cool of 2007’s Lost Highway and the somber blue-collar pop of 2009’s The Circle, Bon Jovi’s songwriters are still busy saving the world while its players (including drummer Tico Torres and keyboardist David Bryan) want to rock it. Often that results in monster-truck, fist-raising moments such as the buoyant “Because We Can” — but not quite often enough, slowed as the album is by weighty concerns (with no answers) and a musical palette colored in soft Coldplay-ish tones. This doesn’t mean Bon Jovi has to go loud to get anthemic. The tender acoustic “The Fighter” is bracingly heart-palpitating and quietly chilled out. Something is subduing these Jersey boys. Less swelling ambience and more punch would solve this problem. At a time when its tresses are trimmed and its membership has matured, Bon Jovi needs to let its hair down.

A.D. Amorosi

The Philadelphia Inquirer