The Boston Globe - 16th September 2003

Bowie stays tuned in with a rocking 'Reality'

CD Review: By Steve Morse (Globe Staff)

Some "aging" rockers have no clue about young and upcoming bands, but David Bowie can talk about them as though he worked at a college radio station. He loves the neo-psychedelic band Grandaddy and is hoping the group makes its breakthrough album soon. He loves the Dandy Warhols and British band Blur.

Any report that Bowie is aging just may be premature. He is 56 years young, not old. It is no wonder that acts from Nine Inch Nails to Moby have asked him to tour with them in recent years. Bowie is still au courant.

"I was born a curious cat," he says from his New York home. "It's not just music. I have the same feeling toward other things. I just like to know how my society is made up culturally. I think it's terribly important. And whatever age I get to, I'll always be listening to what the newer generation is doing, because that's my subject area. That's what I do."

Bowie's new album, "Reality," which comes out today, is a return to the rocking side of Bowie, after an ethereal side trip on his last record, "Heathen." The new disc even has a song, "Never Get Old," that pokes fun at his generation. Bowie sings with a mock defiance: "There's never gonna be enough money/ There's never gonna be enough drugs/ And I'm never gonna get old."

"It just brought a grin to my face singing it," says Bowie. "I grow old hourly, but it was a line too good not to sing. One of my generation was going to sing it at some point, so I thought I'd do it."

But the album is more than just fun and games. Much of it is a candid, unsentimental look at living in New York City during the post-9/11 era. Whereas Bowie's last album was written in Woodstock, this one was written in the city and reflects that tougher edge.

The punky title track, "Reality," offers the confession, "I look for sense but I get next to nothing/ Hoo boy, welcome to reality." The propulsive first single, "New Killer Star," finds him singing about "a great white scar over Battery Park," and the backbeat-driven rocker, "Looking for Water," has him admitting, "I lost God in a New York minute."

There's a restlessness to much of the music that not only makes for a great album but suggests that Bowie is struggling more than ever for answers.

So what is his spiritual life like these days?

"It's cowardly," Bowie admits. "It's 'I believe in you, I don't believe in you, I believe in you, I don't believe in you.' I think, 'Make up your mind! Get off the fence!' But you know what? That kind of vacillation is just a byword in my spiritual life. It's terrible and I get racked with stress about this, but it always has been that way with me. Ever since I was a teenager, there has been this endless search. And as I get to those days of finality, it becomes less and less clear. The only thing I know is that none of the questions I ever ask will be answered, not in this lifetime. But it still doesn't stop me from asking."

Bowie will soon tour, starting Oct. 7 in Copenhagen and is expected to hit the FleetCenter Dec. 9. He promises to mix new songs with classics and pull from his pioneering "Low" and "Heroes" CDs.

"Bowie is one of those people who has never lost his cool factor," says Rick Krim, an executive vice president at VH1. "He hasn't had a giant record in a while, but he still has his iconic nature. As for the new tour, people just want to see him be David Bowie."

Elsewhere on "Reality," Bowie challenges the listener in the songs "Still Drive the Big Car" (about the quiet desperation of a New York housewife), "Days" (about needing a friend), and "Fall Dog Bombs the Moon," a critique of the right-wing military leaders and their need to find enemies ("There's always a moron, someone to hate," Bowie sings).

But he also gives listeners a break with a winsome cover of George Harrison's "Try Some, Buy Some," which he learned through a cover version by Ronnie Spector. It deals with the healing power of love - something that Bowie now enjoys with his wife, the supermodel Iman, and their 5-year-old daughter.

"For the family's sake as well as mine, for the sake of my daughter as much as anything else, it would be horrible if her father had no hope in the future," he says. "So it is my responsibility to find that hope. I think the album is about the complexity of living in the city, but it is not without its sunnier side."

Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.