The last record before David Bowie’s ten year break from the music scene, 2003’s ‘Reality’, sees Bowie in typically fine form. This record is notable for betraying its own conditions and that’s precisely the point. What Bowie attempts to point out on this record is the concept that, in our 21st century world, there truly is no such thing as reality anymore. This theme is supported, musically and lyrically, through the revelations of filtering information in and out as we please. Bowie, of course, uses everything in his power to do a marvelous job of convincing the listener of his proposed theory.
The opening track on the record is “New Killer Star”, a rocking track that Bowie uses as the vehicle to present the record’s theme, albeit in a cryptic fashion. The theme of the record, however, is quite cryptic, incomplete, and versatile in its very nature. One of the things that is quite apparent throughout this record and is best represented in a track like “The Loneliest Guy” is that the warmth of Bowie’s baritone plays a vital part in the overall enjoyment of this record. Throughout this record’s uncertainty and confusion, it’s this warmth that allows the listener a place to rest in solitude. Bowie has never placed himself in the position of villain to the listener and this record certainly doesn’t alter this course. On “Fall Dog Bombs the Moon”, the straightforward motion of the track seems to exist in direct opposition to the narrative that the track projects through its lyrics. Bowie also finds an appropriate placement for a cover of George Harrison’s “Try Some, Buy Some”, first performed by Ronnie Spector. For seasoned Bowie listeners, the craft that he’s able to wield over this record’s central concept will come as no surprise; he had long been one of rock n’ roll’s great storytellers at this point. The one thing that does seem to have changed is Bowie’s presentation of himself. He isn’t interested in portraying himself as a youthful subject of rebellion on this record in any sense, even if he proves on the title track that he was still capable of rocking hard.
Here we have another damn solid record from the legendary Bowie. His ability to slip into a more age-appropriate role on this record (and throughout all of his latter-day releases) is something that arguably no other figure in rock n’ roll was capable of doing. Of course, the inherently enigmatic largess that always was Bowie was something that he was never able to shed. This record is just as good, if not a little bit better than ‘Heathen’, which had come out a year prior. Like that record, part of this record’s strength is its ability to handle its subject matter in an understated, subtle fashion. There is an acceptance perpetrated throughout this record that is, more than anything else, a testament to the maturity of Bowie. Throughout the later years of his career, he had become quite the classicist; an almost unbelievable staple of coolness and mature swagger that was, as was always the case with him, alien. Oddly enough, this alien was always more than capable of projecting genuine warmth and this record is definitely no exception, even if it isn’t a fully consistent effort.