13 Oct 2014

David Bowie / Sue (single review)

Nothing Has Changed, the front cover of David Bowie's new compilation announces. And that kind of makes sense. Bowie unveiled his new single yesterday, Sue (In A Season Of Crime), and it feels as if nothing has changed, whilst everything has changed. It's all changed because Dame Dave has turned his back on the conservative pop-come-rock stylings of last year's comeback album, The Next Day, and emerged with a whole new sound. This time round David Bowie is giving it all, in an 8 minute jazz odyssey. But of course, with David Bowie this means nothing has changed. Even at his age now, he's still unafraid to push boundaries, and plough into uncharted territory, and here's our verdict on Sue (In A Season Of Crime), his first material from his latest incarnation as David Bowie, jazz extraordinaire.

David Bowie unveils Nothing Has Changed new album artwork
Sue has a lot of the qualities you love about David Bowie's past material. It's as ambitious as Low, as unnerving as Station To Station, and it's every bit as interesting as everything he's ever done everything.
The song starts frantic and finicky, a scuttling bassline with some dramatic big band orchestration. It's jazzy, and done brilliantly; brass and wind competing against each other to make an almost dissonant, claustrophobic sound; the instrumentals seem kind of 50's-America-Meets-JG Ballard. And when Bowie vocals hit, they really hit, the first bout is almost optimistic as he cries for Sue. Bowie's vocals sound aged but not like on the next day, where they seem kind of withered in places. Through this track his voice sounds old, yet mature, like Scott Walker with even more bravado.

Between verses there's a large amount of instrumentation which makes it sound unsettling; it adds so much to the atmosphere. Bowie's voice sounds big, and the subject matter; the murder of Sue, from what I can make out.(NME call it a 'murder ballad', but it's not as explicit as that) is dark and unsettling. Whilst it's all new Bowie, it sounds like it could soundtrack a silent film. A really creepy silent film. Maybe a David Lynch meets Salvador Dali meets Wall Street Crash silent film. You know what I mean?
Over seven minutes, Sue doesn't sound too long at all, it's just right. It's a perfect mix between the latest Bowie-volution and a really early Scott Walker track. I was cynical at first, but David Bowie can honestly turn his hand to everything.
When legends like Bowie bring out new material there's always a risk of there being a bit of an Emperor's New Clothes feel to it. Poppy's going to hit me for this, but like when Morrissey brought out his first album since 2009 earlier this year, (please don't hit me Poppy) everyone said how great it was, and how it was a return to form and all the clich├ęs you can shake a stick at, when really it wasn't all that. "Amazing!" they all said to his face, whilst laughing behind his back because the once enigmatic Moz had actually released an album with the lyrics "Kiss me a lot/Kiss me a lot/Kiss me all over my face... Kiss me all over the place" on it. Oh dear. Sorry Moz.
Luckily, the genius that is David Bowie has not misfired by bringing out a jazz single. Unlike The Next Day, it sounds brilliant after a couple of listens, and there's more to it than meets the ears. It'll obviously divide opinions, but I think this is so great, and it deserves and Bowie deserves all the praise there is.
Here it; HERE
Out: Now, physically on November 28th, as a 10' single (backed by a track called Tis Pity She's A Whore)
For fans of: Scott Walker, Miles Davis, 50's musicals, jazz bars, David Bowie