The last thing I expected to wake up to this morning was a new David Bowie single. The Dame has been in musical seclusion since 2003’s Reality, and frankly I’d accepted that all we were going to get from now on were endless reissues of his catalog. But no, the old guy still has at least one more in him.
“Where Are We Now,” released on Bowie’s 66th birthday, is the first single from the upcoming The Next Day (rel: March 8-12, 2013). It’s a lovely little song that Bowiephiles already are trying to solve like something out of a Dan Brown novel. I’d rather not read too much into it and simply enjoy a bittersweet walk through Berlin with my best friend I’ll never meet. Here he is a “man lost in time” taking the train from the dead center of Berlin to a disco that has been shuttered for twenty years. “You never knew that I could do that,” he says, presumably to a lost friend or romance. He’s right — I’ve never imagined Bowie navigating public transit.
“Walking the dead,” he repeats throughout the song, a dismissive phrase almost like Vonnegut’s “so it goes.” One feels the loneliness and melancholy of an older man reflecting on a past that to him doesn’t seem that long ago. He really is lost in time, walking 20,000 people across the Bornholmer Strasse Checkpoint separating East and West Berlin, a division that hasn’t existed for over twenty years.
Bowie’s voice sounds thin and tired, which it probably is, but it suits the material perfectly. “Where Are We Now” raises more questions than it answers. Will The Next Day be a nostalgia soaked valedictory? We’ll see.
Take a listen for yourself on Vimeo.