One wonders just what [a]David Bowie[/a] expects to find on the Internet...

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One wonders just what [a]David Bowie[/a] expects to find on the Internet. or possibly

Or perhaps the great man is convinced that there is some great secret residing deep within cyberspace which will eventually provide the elixir of creative rebirth. Hence this record will be available on the Internet a week before CD, and there is also the quite chilling prospect of he and his band appearing in a PC computer game called (oh yes indeed) Omikron: The Nomad Soul. Not just a new [a]David Bowie[/a]album, but cyber-gifts for a new generation! Really Dad, you shouldn’t have.

But wait! It seems the fearless [I]|ber[/I]-pseud warrior of the future has got back in touch with ground control. Why, some of this sounds almost (gasp!) old-fashioned!

New single ‘Thursday’s Child‘ sets the tone, with Sir David in wistful, contemplative, nay downright melancholy mood. In fact, he sounds alarmingly like Stuart Staples from the Tindersticks, all fragile maudlin vibrato, as he croons about how, [I]”All of my life I tried so hard doing my best with what I had… maybe I’m born right out of my time”[/I]. Is this earth [a]David Bowie[/a] we’re talking about here? Well, maybe it is for once. And it makes for quite splendid, sweeping stuff, somewhere between ‘Ashes To Ashes‘ and Louis Armstrong‘s ‘We Have All The Time In The World‘. There’s no sign of of the zeitgeist-chasing menopausal self-consciousness, naff postmodernism or sci-fi pretension we’ve come
to expect.

Alas, the rest of this album is a pale imitation of the same moody magnificence. ‘If I’m Dreaming My Life‘ has a certain dramatic presence and the echo of an epic tune, and ‘Something In The Air‘ has a stuttery, nervously emotional grace to it, but elsewhere there’s lots of bittersweet reflections, minor chords and emotional atmospherics, but precious few memorable melodies. Meanwhile, every so often he attempts his old faux-Cockney voice or inserts some space noise, but it only serves, as ever of late, to make him look like mutton dressed as ham.

The one other exception to that malaise is ‘The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell‘, which writhes around a chugging designer metal riff and a glammy swagger you’ve rarely heard this man pull off in years.

Otherwise, after all the future-hugging ideas and innovation-hungry experiments that have crippled Bowie‘s records in the ’90s, ‘hours…’ fails not through pretension, over-ambition or trying to be down with the kids, but through time-honoured mediocre songwriting. I think that’s what they call irony. Let’s hope it doesn’t catch on.