Wednesday 18 January 2017

Review: David Bowie – 'No Plan'

The loss of David Bowie is certainly still a raw wound for many across the world. An impressive 50 year legacy of musical innovation, and cultural reinvention that has been imitated but never bettered. Bowie's death from cancer last January just days after his birthday and the release of perhaps one of his finest albums 'Blackstar', was a cruel twist at the end of a brilliant life. As such the final album has been seen as a final testament and goodbye executed in the artistic prowess that only he could do.

Fast-forward one year to coincide with the first anniversary of his passing and what would have been his 70th birthday, the 'No Plan' EP emerged quietly onto the scene. Heralded by a low-key video release and available in digital format only the EP is a collection of songs from the 'Blackstar' sessions that had previously been included on the 'Lazarus' cast recording soundtrack.

The EP kicks off with the still raw and cutting 'Lazarus' from 'Blackstar' as if to emphasise the EP as a statement of finality on the recordings from the album. The title track follows on nicely with its noir atmosphere, melancholic melodies and haunting vocal performance from Bowie. 'Killing A Little Time' ups the rockier elements a bit more with the distorted guitar and staggered rhythms cutting through hard, while Bowie's vocals take on a more fervent tone. The last song, 'When I Met You', begins with some nice droning synths and steady muffled rhythms before opening up into a nice straight and pure classic Bowie rock performance punctuated by a jazzy breakdown before the final push.

The EP shows that Bowie still had more in the tank creatively before his untimely death. There are more tracks rumoured to be unreleased from the 'Blackstar' sessions, and it would have been nice if more were included here. But the 'No Plan' EP is a poignant and surprisingly energetic full stop. It would be tempting to bookend the EP with 'Lazarus' and the title track, but the emphasis on finishing on the more rock-flavoured cuts adds a reprieve from the loss. A healthier and more energetic Bowie. The Bowie that is engrained in the mind of millions that stalked the stage in outlandish outfits and make-up. The pioneered new sounds and style before others. That collaborated with underground musicians and broke down racial barriers.

It would be nice if this EP saw a physical release so it can sit side-by-side with 'Blackstar' where it belongs, and hopefully there are still some new songs left in the vault to look forward to. But in the here and now, 'No Plan' is a must for any fan.  

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