David Bowie 

Blackstar

If David Bowie had to die, it's pretty cool he died two days after releasing his 25th album. The Bowie corpus spans an impressive portion of rock 'n roll history. Now that it is accompanied by the Bowie corpse, Blackstar is almost impossible to evaluate. What do you say about Picasso's last paintings? Not blue enough? Faces still crooked? At a certain point, the artist dwarfs the work.

Blackstar is late-career work, no question. The sleazy grooves of Bowie's best rock are long gone, and even the disco has fallen away. What remains are the drum machines, genre-mixing rhythms and moody atmospherics that have dominated his work since Outside. This is the epic, experimental Bowie—the soprano saxophone solo Bowie—and if the experiments seem less thrilling in his dotage, it is because he has made so many strange things familiar over the years.

click to enlarge noise_bowie.jpg

Blackstar is probably not the most interesting rock album of 2016. But the sad yet auspicious fact of his death makes it maybe the most fascinating. Was this last album a benediction? "Something happened on the day he died," the title track goes. "Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside./ Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried,/ 'I'm a blackstar. I'm a blackstar.'" Whatever that means, it's not a prophecy. No one will take his place, and probably we will not hear a cry so brave again.

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