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Aug 31 2011

Carl’s Rock Songbook #18, David Bowie, “The Prettiest Star” » Postmodern Conservative

Reblogged from

Rock’s other significance in relation to modernity, which David Bowie understood better than anyone, is that it sanctions a new type of heroism, that in contrast to, say, an astronaut’s bit part in a space-flight that is essentially the military-industrial establishment’s accomplishment—This is ground control to Major Tom…You’ve really made the grade…and the papers want to know whose shirts you wear…now it’s time to leave the capsule, if you dare! –promises to put the individual in command of his own creation. Like a Wordsworth, or better, a Byron, the ideal rock star will create in a way that breaks new aesthetic ground and inspires a generation. But his connection with his followers, unlike a poet’s, will not be confined to words—indeed, in the concert hall, when the band strikes those first chords, his entrance will seem like that of an undeniable power. By an interaction of popular acclaim and technological artistry, he is lifted above the anonymous democratic mass and the hum-drum character of modern life, his fans both making possible and being imaginatively swept into his apotheosis. As Bowie puts it in “The Prettiest Star”: One day, well, it might as well be Sunday, You will rise on high and take us all away, All because of what you are… The Prettiest Star. Of course, rock’s bohemian impulses could not remain entirely comfortable with the Star as the proper heroic model, and by the late-70s it became clear that cult status was another sort of rock heroism—one might aspire to be the half-hidden gods behind an artistic movement, as the Velvet Underground were now regarded, or one might simply aspire to obtain a niche-specialized and studiously democratic fame, like the D.I.Y. punk and underground bands. Why should rock, however, have become the preferred medium for democratic heroism and timely poetic reflection? We’ll consider that issue next.

On January 8, 2016, David Bowie will release a new album called Blackstar, the Times of London reports. The 7-song LP was reportedly recorded at the Magic Shop studio in New York with local jazz musicians. Its 10-minute title track, recently excerpted as the theme tune for the Sky Atlantic heist series The Last Panthers, is apparently due November 19. (That track will also feature in Lazarus, the stage show Bowie is co-writing.) The Times describes the record as “an album of long, jazzy jams mixed with the kind of driving beat pioneered by Seventies German bands Can and Kraftwerk.”

Elsewhere in the story,...

88 About 1 month ago

That guy who’s spending the year pretending to be David Bowie many need to update his portrayal soon, with The Times Of London reporting that the Thin White Duke has a new album coming out early next year. Titled Blackstar, the new seven-song disc is being described as Bowie’s weirdest output in years, apparently mixing “jazzy jams” with Gregorian chanting and inspiration from ’70s krautrock bands. It’s expected to be released on January 8, 2016.

“Blackstar”—no relation, we’re guessing, to Mos Def and Talib Kweli—will also be the album’s title track, and was recently featured as the new...

22 About 1 month ago

The album, Bowie’s 25th to date, contains seven tracks spanning 45 minutes, recorded at the Magic Shop in New York City with a group of jazz musicians. “Blackstar may be the oddest work yet from [Bowie],” The Times notes.

(Read: Ranking + Dissected: David Bowie)

The title track also serves as the lead single and will be released on November 19th. According to The Times, “Blackstar” has a running time of 10 minutes and contains “Gregorian chants, a soul section, various electronic beat and bleeps, and Bowie’s distinctive vocals. There is no radio edit; it’s all or nothing.”

“Blackstar” also serves as...

27 About 1 month ago

This is the second in my series of 1980s survey mixes, which are designed to give more context to the music of that decade. Most versions of ‘80s history focus on specific niches and canons, but mostly ignore or write off parallel and overlapping cultural trends. My goal in doing this project is to highlight all the different things going on from year to year, to better understand the original context of familiar songs and to highlight a lot of the music that has faded from cultural memory.

There’s a lot going on in 1988, but the thing that really hit...

130 About 1 month ago

Ex-NME journalist Charles Shaar Murray once described NME's mission as follows: to “burst some fucking balloons, BBQ some dinosaurs, go out there, find the future, and when we find it, praise it to the skies.” He was referring specifically to the magazine’s remit during his employment there in the 70s. At the time, politically enthused scribes like Murray, Nick Kent, and Julie Burchill would hurtle readers into lurid backstage areas and narcotic-fuelled carouses in four-star hotel rooms with the Rolling Stones, punk scene luminaries, and Led Zeppelin. As a result, the inky-fingered rock paper maintained a circulation of around 300,000, then a record high for the brand.

Since that era,...

77 About 1 month ago

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In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Garth Risk Hallberg's ambitious debut novel City on Fire engaging epic of New York City in the 1970s.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Completely engrossing . . . This magnificent first novel is full to bursting with plot, character, and emotion, all set within an exquisitely grungy 1970s New York City . . . Graceful in execution, hugely entertaining, and most concerned with the longing for connection, a...

58 About 1 month ago