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Bowie's surprise release is no game changer

When the nation woke up on Tuesday morning it was greeted with the news that David Bowie had released his first new music for a decade -- and on the occasion of his 66th birthday too.

Ever the master of media manipulation, even Bowie himself would probably have been stunned by the reaction, as newspapers and television news shows (edited, I'm guessing, by men of a certain age) went doolally at the very existence of Where Are We Now? and were practically frothing at the prospect of the album The Next Day arriving next month.

In fairness, Where Are We Now? is a perfectly fine song and would make for a more-than-acceptable album track at pretty much any stage of Bowie's career but, really, people seem to have lost the run of themselves on this. The near-hysteria surrounding this overnight release led to some seriously pretentious blather, one UK-based hack barely stopping short of declaring that Bowie had come back to save rock music, all of which conveniently overlooked several salient facts.

For starters, this isn't Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane or the Thin White Duke emerging from the clouds, deus ex machina-like, to rescue us from some terrible fate; it's David Bowie. Ask yourself this: at what point in the past decade have you listened to Reality, Heathen, Hours ... , Earthling or Outside? Thought so. And they're his last five albums.


Maybe it's just me, but if I fancy listening to some Bowie I never venture beyond 1980's Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and usually dip further back into his unbeatable 1970s catalogue for a hit of genius. Fair play to the man for gifting us with a new and eerily reflective song in Where Are We Now?, a song whose underlying theme of mortality becomes clear after a couple of listens, but anyone expecting the former titan to come up with a game-changing collection 33 years after his last outstanding album is simply deluding themselves. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

George Byrne

* The Bowie Birthday Bash takes place in the Grand Social, Lower Liffey Street, tonight