There is something inherently strange about experiencing the art of a dead man. Even though David Bowie tragically passed away on the 10th of January last year, there is reportedly a vast amount of unreleased music contained in his vaults. Yesterday marked the release of the first of these recordings, packaged as the new EP No Plan. Released exactly a year after Bowie’s final studio album, Blackstar, which came out a mere two days before the iconic performers death, No Plan features three previous unheard songs alongside the track ‘Lazarus’ which also featured on Blackstar.
No Plan was released on what would have been the legend’s 70th birthday, and the tracks would not have sounded out of place on Blackstar, as they embody the same lyrical themes of coming to terms with mortality, and boast similar instrumentation. Silky saxophones and slow grooves populate the songs, which are warm and enveloping numbers. Bowie’s voice comes across just as it did on Blackstar – his age is evident in his delivery, but it is not hampered by the shakiness that comes with that age. The lack of distinct strength to his voice creates a certain vulnerability, which adds to the atmosphere immensely. The comforting lyrics of ‘Lazarus’ on Blackstar, where Bowie croons – “look up here man, I’m in heaven,” felt at the time like a letter to fans, letting them know it was okay that he would be slipping away. The music of No Plan comes across in a similar fashion, as though Bowie is singing to us from beyond the grave, reminding us that all is well. When he utters the phrase “here, am I nowhere now?” on the track ‘No Plan’, there is a haunting sorrow present which seems fairly poignant given the circumstances.
It is understandable to take issue with a label drip feeding the music of a fallen icon – will we still be hearing new David Bowie music twenty years from now? But while it is easy to see this release and the packaging of it as a shameless cash grab from some corporate stiffs at Colombia and Sony, there is still something beautiful about hearing the music of someone so important to culture once again. Ever the forward thinking artist, the three new tracks on No Plan demonstrate Bowie’s innovation and artistry in the clearest possible way, with unique song structures and bold musical choices populating the release. Even though the world has now suffered a full year without one of our greatest talents gracing us with their presence, we are still reminded of his sheer talent and importance through the release of No Plan, and this is perhaps exactly what we needed.
How Sony and Colombia will go about their distribution of the remaining unreleased David Bowie music is unclear, but the prospect of hearing more music from the fallen starman over time is certainly tantalising, and the No Plan EP is a marvellous reintroduction to one of the most, if not the most, important musical figures of our time.
No Plan is available now. Check out the eerie and poignant video for the title track below.