Streams: David Bowie, “Where Are We Now?” (2013)

You knew that if David Bowie ever ended his premature retirement, it would be like this — completely out of nowhere. One of rock’s most mercurial figures, he has returned as suddenly as he left.

“Where Are We Now,” released to the surprise of almost every one this morning, represents Bowie’s first new music since 2003 — and it begins on an elegiac, appropriately melancholic note. Time away tends to do that to a human heart. But, as with all things Bowie, things are not entirely what they first seemed.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Producer Nile Rodgers takes us inside the sessions for David Bowie's chart-topping early-1980s hit album 'Let's Dance,' which featured Rodgers' band Chic.]

The track — likely owing to the presence of Tony Visconti, a key collaborator who was there for the classic Berlin period of Low, Heroes and The Lodger — grows ever more complex, ever more interesting. “Where Are We Now,” available now on iTunes, is the lead single from a promised new album called The Next Day, due from Columbia Records in March.

Wait. Wasn’t this guy last seen telling Olympic organizers, hoping he’d participate in the London opening ceremonies, to piss off?

Instead, here he is: Not with something to outsized and dramatic, but with a strangely entrancing initial rumination on someone “lost in time,” surrounded by cumulus, almost ambient keyboards.

Soon, however, Bowie begins building toward a stirring, anthematic conclusion, one that reaffirms — though all of the confusion of loss, and memory and time — the human connection that often keeps us moving forward, repeating “as long as there’s me, as long as there’s you.”

In all, Visconti has worked on 12 Bowie albums, including celebrated efforts like Scary Monster and The Man Who Sold the World. Based on “Where Are We Now?,” this one could easily be the most anticipated collaboration yet.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Something Else! Reviews

    MORE FROM AROUND THE WATERCOOLER AT SER TOWERS …

    MARK SALESKI: Wow. I don’t think anybody saw that coming. I’m not much of a fan, but somehow it’s good to see him coming back.

    JC MOSQUITO: I had a friend who was very into Bowie, so I heard lots of those albums, but at the time I thought his whole career was just schtick based on fashion, not on music.

    MARK SALESKI: Never could quite put my finger on why I never became a fan. I mean, he was _everywhere_ back when I was a kid…and yet I don’t own anything older than ‘Let’s Dance.’ Oh, I might have ‘Changes One’ or something on vinyl, but I think that was inherited in the boxes of records people gave me when switching to the “superior” sound of CDs.

    … and now we have a previously unreleased Hendrix track?

    S. VICTOR AARON: I’ve heard for some time that a “new” Hendrix record is coming out this year but hadn’t listened to any advance music from it until now. I don’t know if this is quite as groundbreaking as RS is making it out to be, but it still sounds pretty amazing.

    TOM JOHNSON: Give me new Bowie over “new” Hendrix any day.

    MARK SALESKI: Somebody said that a chopped up version of this was on some boot or something. I dunno. Never heard it before, but it’s kind of cool. I like the weird break in the middle.

    TOM JOHNSON: Oh, don’t get me wrong, I like the song, but there’s really nothing “new” going on with these Hendrix releases anymore. I wish they’d just cull ALL of this stuff together in one really, really great box set rather than putting together all these so-so albums and retrospective boxes. No one needs any more career retrospectives for Hendrix. But I bet this will another half-assed release where there are a few key pieces, like this song, and a bunch of early versions of well-known songs that few really need to hear – just like Valleys Of Neptune and the others I can’t think of. The new Bowie, on the other hand, is really refreshing. Exactly what I’d hoped for, and yet beautifully fragile because of the obvious aging in his voice. Really excited for this. And I love that he was able to keep this under wraps the whole time he was working on it.