‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’, is the first track Bowie has recorded since releasing the career-reviving ‘The Next Day’ in 2013. And in a typically Bowie-like u-turn, it’s a jazz track. Not just a bit jazzy – it’s proper jazz, recorded with Grammy winning composer Maria Scheider and her 17-piece big band. It’s also a murder ballad, sung from a first person perspective with pointed but enigmatic lyrics that shift in focus throughout.
Roughly, the eight-minute version of the song can be split into three portions: the first building calmly, the second violent and discordant, the final part sparse and disturbing, tumbling over itself as the song wraps up. The lyrics tell a tale that appears to begin happily, but quickly goes sour. “Sue, I got the job/ We’ll buy the house/ You’ll need to rest but now we’ll make it,” it says. Minutes later, our narrator is pushing Sue her “down beneath the reeds”, as saxophones squeal to a maddening crescendo. Finally, we flash backwards – or forwards – to the discovery of a message from Sue: “I found your note/ That you wrote last night/ It can’t be right/ You went with him,” it says.
It’s Nick Cave meets Scott Walker meets Herbie Hancock – and it’s quite brilliant.