David Bowie – No Plan EP (2017)

No Plan has been released to mark David Bowie’s 70th birthday. The EP contains three songs from the soundtrack to Lazarus, the musical Bowie produced in 2016 alongside his final album Blackstar, and sees the release of the songs individually rather than as part of the soundtrack.

There is a sense of melancholy throughout the EP, particularly with the hindsight we now have. No Plan includes “Lazarus” from Blackstar, as well as songs written for the musical – including “No Plan,” “Killing a Little Time” and “When I Met You.” These tracks are believed to be David Bowie’s last recordings, completed around the time of the Blackstar album sessions.

“Lazarus,” which opens the EP, has overtures of forewarning of death – perhaps but only because we now know Bowie was close to his own demise when he recorded it. The opening lyrics “Look up here, I’m in heaven” will pull at the heart strings of his fans; this track is poignant and moving. “No Plan” is ethereal, spiritual and has a distinct jazz influence in the latter part. The strong, melancholic sax solo is very moving and the lyrics ‘There’s no music here, I’m lost in streams of sound” and “Oh, of the things that are my life, my moods, my beliefs, desires, me alone, nothing to regret; here is my place without a plan” speak of a spiritual side to Bowie. This number is structured beautifully.

“Killing a Little Time” is rock and roll, albeit with slightly poignant overtures. The lyrics paint a picture of many emotions and the vocals are underpinned by steadfast, deep rhythms – a great contrast to the slower tracks on No Plan. The abrasive quality of the music is appealing and engaging on a deep level, and the off-center sax solo under the vocal lines – along with the contrapuntal rhythms provided by the percussion – is clever and superbly placed to make this something of an epic number. “When I Met You” begins with a steady, heart beat-like rhythm and develops into a chundering, poppy number reminiscent of many of David Bowie’s great hits. It opens with the lyrics “You knew just everything but nothing at all; now the moon is dark, feels like pain again,” lines that point to an unspoken love. A great track and very Bowie!

With its carefully chosen numbers, No Plan will pull at the heart strings not only of fans who miss the brilliance with which this star shone but also those interested in Bowie as a pop icon and in his life and influences. There is a sense of David Bowie’s essence here – not the characters he created but Bowie as the song master, the painter of portraits and creator of good pop music, allowing rock, jazz and tinny pop to influence the recordings and speak to a whole broad army of listeners.

Sammy Stein

Sammy Stein

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Sammy Stein