I have spent the last few days listening to the new David Bowie album.
Let’s savour that phrase for a while: new David Bowie album.
There’s a novelty to it, isn’t there? It’s a particularly foreign concept for a lot of fans my age. To us, you see, this is the first new Bowie album that has ever existed. Well, we were around for Reality, but we didn’t care. We were twelve at the time.
I belong to a rare sub-species of twenty-somethings who listen mostly to music from before their birth. (Specifically, up to five hundred years before my birth, but for now, let’s focus on the ten-twenty range.) This is not a point of pride. In fact, I’d rather not be this way, because I like to be involved in conversations about music, and I often find myself left out of the loop amongst my peers. I once made a fool of myself for assuming that Animal Collective was an advocacy group.
Those who share my miserable affliction like to believe that our music is alive and well. We go to Rolling Stones concerts and buy new Neil Young albums to convince ourselves. Usually, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
Our heroes have become distinctly unheroic.
Why, then, don’t we just give up? Why not content ourselves with a generous canon of forty-year-old masterpieces, and quit contributing to the coffers of uninspired old men?
Here’s why: Like I said, we feel the need to have conversations about music. There’s an immediacy to discussing a new album that just isn’t there when you’re having the world’s trillionth chat about the relative virtues of Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. Even if the discussion is on how woefully Ian Anderson let us all down with Thick as a Brick 2, it feels fresh. We need that. We want what the Animal Collective fans have.
To us, The Next Day is not important for any of the reasons the reviewers say it is. It isn’t important because of it’s suddenness, or because it’s been so long since we heard from Bowie, or because most of us gave up hope that this would ever happen. It’s important because we’re hearing Bowie songs for the first time – and for once, so is the rest of the world. It’s important because, this time, we’re listening to this music in its proper moment. It’s important to us for the same reasons any new album by a senior citizen is.
Except, this one’s good.
And we’re very, very pleased about that.