Tuesday, January 10, 2017

One Year Later . . . We Continue To Mourn David Bowie With No Plan

The Good: Good vocals, Some decent lines
The Bad: SHORT, Poor cohesiveness as a self-sustaining album, Entire EP is available already as a second disc!
The Basics: David Bowie fans who overlooked the Lazarus Original Cast Recording are rewarded for holding out with a chance to buy the second disc's contents from that album with the "new" No Plan EP.

One year ago today, David Bowie died. Bowie's death is one that has resonated in my household for the entire year as my wife is a huge fan of David Bowie's works and one of her bucket list goals when we first met was to see him in concert. Bowie's final album, Blackstar (reviewed here!), has been played on pretty high repetition in our home for the past year. And recently, when we rewatched Gilmore Girls (reviewed here!) in preparation for the revival, the most angry my wife ever became at the antics of Lorelei Gilmore was when Lorelai acts like a spoiled brat about going to a David Bowie concert because she is not all that fond of the guy. When that episode came up, it took less than half a second before my wife realized that the episode would have been set during what was actually David Bowie's final U.S. tour and she was screaming at the television, "It doesn't matter who the guy is, you go see Bowie!" So, when the new posthumous EP No Plan was released as a digital download, that was big news around our home.

For those who have a similar affinity to David Bowie and his enduring legacy, the bottomline on the No Plan EP is: skip it. It is short and it is already available. No Plan is identical to the second disc in the Lazarus Original Cast Recording Album. More music (Michael C. Hall singing Bowie!), identical content and less-exploitative, the Lazarus Original Cast Recording is a far better value for fans than the No Plan EP.

That said, No Plan is the work of David Bowie from one of his last major projects. The EP has four songs, clocking out at 17:59 and all four were written and performed by David Bowie. The version of "Lazarus" that appears on No Plan is identical to the one that appeared on Blackstar. The EP was co-produced by David Bowie, so it is hard to argue that it is not the vision he intended for the music presented upon it.

The three songs "unique" to No Plan are "No Plan," "Killing A Little Time," and "When I Met You." All three feature David Bowie's distinctive voice, which is enough to make listeners pine for him all over again. The songs might have gelled well in the context of the musical Lazarus, but they have less cohesiveness when put one after another on the No Plan EP.

There is something tragic about listening to "No Plan," in such a familiar way that fans might be surprised that Bowie left the song off of Blackstar. When Bowie sings "All the things that are my life / My moods / My beliefs / My desires / Me alone / Nothing to regret / This is no place, but here I am / This is not quite yet" ("No Plan"), the listener is reminded of how prepared Bowie seemed to be for his death. "No Plan" is a slow, soft, sad track that is carried on the majesty of Bowie's vocals and the longing tone of his voice is tear-evoking. "No Plan" is the highlight of the album.

"No Plan" leads very poorly into the guitars of "Killing A Little Time." Drums and guitar on "Killing A Little Time" make a swirling, noisy sound that is antagonistic after the quiet beauty of "No Plan." "Killing A Little Time" is derivative of "Bring Me The Disco King" for the way Bowie's vocals are sublimated to a musical accompaniment that is more unpleasant than it is anything remotely melodic. And, it's not like his lines "I'm falling, man / I'm choking, man / I'm fading, man / And broke and blind" ("Killing A Little Time") are much of an upper to get one away from the miserable feelings evoked by the guitars and percussion.

"When I Met You" is a percussion-driven love song that is frenetic and has an almost angry sound to it. By the time Bowie comes in with his vocals, the listener is on edge from the cacophonous instrumentals that precede his voice. Even so, when Bowie breaks through with lines like "When I met you (You're feeling depressed) / I could not speak (You're drowning in pain) / You opened my mouth (You're walking in midst) / You opened my heart (You're leaving again)" ("When I Met You") it is hard for his passion not to break through the noisy musical accompaniment and touch the listener. Bowie's voice carries the song and in some ways, "When I Met You" makes the listener recall the moment they first fell in love with the music of David Bowie all over again.

The contents of No Plan are not bad, but they are not enough to sustain even its own EP. The release of the No Plan EP is the musical equivalent of releasing DVD bonus features as their own release and expecting fans to lap it up happily. Given the quality of the Bowie recordings unearthed and released since his death, there are far, far better options for fans than No Plan.

For other David Bowie reviews, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Man Who Sold The World
Hunkey Dory
The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Aladdin Sane
Diamond Dogs
Christiane F. Soundtrack
Let's Dance
Labyrinth Soundtrack
Never Let Me Down
Eart hl i ng
Best Of Bowie (1 Disc version)
The Best Of Bowie (2 Disc version)
Best Of Bowie (DVD videos)
The Next Day (Deluxe Edition)


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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