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.
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.