Monday, January 9, 2017

David Bowie - No Plan Review

One year ago yesterday, David Bowie would release his final album, the day of his 69th birthday. Two days later he would pass away from liver cancer, a fate he kept to himself and those closest to him. He didn't release the news to media outlets, kept promotion of Blackstar, and its certain heavy-handed topic, at a minimum, and requested and received no funeral. Everything about Bowie's death was humble, except for one thing; the album. Blackstar, like a beacon of light welcoming in one of its greatest children, acted as Bowie's funeral, a march to the end of days where the man lying stiff in the casket knew of his whereabouts. The emotion poured through the lines, the production felt ominous and absolute, and the music video's for 'Blackstar' and 'Lazarus' were ripe with metaphors of death. Like most albums though, Blackstar wasn't just those seven treasured tracks, and towards the end of 2016, we got a glimpse into the vault with three unreleased singles from the Lazarus musical. Yesterday, we received the works officially, in short, sweet, reflective EP form. No Plan won't answer any lingering questions you had, but it'll surely further convince you of David Bowie's unparalleled talents, even at the end of his life.

To garner more attention to No Plan, a music video for the song of the same name was dropped with no rollout too. In it, we see an electronics store lit up from the static of a dozen televisions before being used as conductors for Bowie to descend back to earth to reflect. Content alone makes 'No Plan' the best of the bunch, and with the music video acting as a fresh perspective, it's interesting to theorize that, along with 'Lazarus,' 'No Plan' likely comes from post-mortem Bowie, lost in the stars with no imminent goal. In fact, if you want to press further, No Plan could be conceived as a concept EP purposely released following Bowie's time away from us, as, with the inclusion of 'Killing A Little Time's' unsureness and 'When I Met You's' state of wistful cognition, the final product feels resolute and postscript. To me, the EP acts as such, an update of sorts to Bowie's time in the stars, and unfortunately, if the somber music's anything to go by, the emptiness filling up the airwaves doesn't paint a pretty picture, even though Bowie's voice and his production does.

This is best seen on 'No Plan,' which is devastating by design. The track, definitely the closest to Blackstar in mood and style, begins with Bowie missing the thing he loved most: "There's no music here, I'm lost in streams of sound." A grave contradiction to live amongst the sound waves, yet hear no uniform harmony. 'No Plan' doesn't stop there, also finding Bowie wondering where his person went, as his 'desires, beliefs, and moods' have vanished in this "place without a plan." The track really feels as if it could've only been made by a person living outside of themselves. The other two tracks don't fair as well, but in different respects. 'Killing A Little Time' struggles with production, which aims for aggression like 'Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime),' coming up on the short end again, feeling under-composed, rigid, and meager, like an artist who had never quite mastered a certain shtick. Lastly, 'When I Met You's' buoyant vibe slightly detracts from No Plan's gloomy mood, making for an uneasy mood shift to close things out. That's not to say the song stumbles though, as it, more likely than not, acts as Bowie's final love song, with the "you" deliberately ambiguous. With Bowie, we'd have it no other way.

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