Las Vegas Mercury - October 23rd 2003

David Bowie: Reality

Listening Station

By Mike Prevatt

It seems David Bowie's fans anticipate a "return to form" nearly as much as Radiohead's. The problem for them is, the Thin White Duke pretty much left his glam-pop sound with the '70s, and has since been forging ahead with sounds that prefer a detached, futuristic vagueness rather than the uncertain modernism he's so known for. Most have found it tough to absorb much of his output since the early '80s, when the high-charting Scary Monsters and Let's Dance albums showcased some of the singer/songwriter's most tuneful and eye-candy inspiring work.

With last year's consistently pleasing Heathen, Bowie re-teamed with his '70s producer, Tony Visconti, and the result was the closest thing the artist had come to truly revisiting his golden era, both in terms of the quality of the material and the passion behind it. Fifteen months later, Reality accomplishes something very similar, only the songs pull you in more immediately. Whereas Heathen felt more spatial and ethereal - a post-millennial update of his work with ambient godfather Brian Eno - Reality is a tighter, even punchier affair, reminiscent of the fired-up Bowie of Scary Monsters. Guitar-driven poppers like the radio single "New Killer Star," the spirited "Never Get Old," the evocative, mid-tempo "Days" and the robust title track put a focus on melody, and as any one of his hits compilations indicates, this man can pen a tune.

Part of this revitalization has to be credited to Bowie's triumphant, hit-friendly live performances during last year's Area Two festival tour. The immediacy and harmony on Reality reflect the balance of pop showmanship and aesthetic grace he displayed in those outings.

It's as if Bowie finally reconnected with his legacy to put modern life - or how he perceives it - into perspective. It not only promises an equally resonant vibe for Bowie's forthcoming world tour, but affirms his second wind as less a comeback and more an artistic evolution.