I’m going to be taking a short(ish) break….starting now

I’m going to be taking a break from releasing regular videos and radio and podcasts while I get my head together and plan out what I’m going to do in 2014. This year was incredibly productive for me. I made sixty something videos, fifty something podcasts, don’t know how many written blogs and fifty thousand words of a novel….yeah that’s quite a lot for someone with a full time job on top of it, I’ve also moved house this year as well and trying to keep on top of the hunt for paid writing work. I’ve barely had time to do anything else this year…or go outside that much. Long story short, I need to sort out the life that’s happening around my creative shit before I can focus on it again really, its only necessary.

That and myself and Rick have plans for WTF Just Happened. Big plans. So please, if you’ve ever shown any interest in what I do, please share the WTF Just Happened soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/wtf-just-happened

Also our podcast feed: http://wtfjusthappened.jellycast.com/podcast/feed/2

There’s also some stuff I might as well make clear before we head into 2014 and I start on new projects

END OF YEAR NOTES

No more Out of Context. I will never be going under the pseudonym/character/thing the Herbalcrackpot again. Which sucks for me because it means I’ll have to redesign the website banner and I suck at graphic design so it’ll take ages.

The reason I’m not doing Herbalcrackpot related things anymore is that the character is a remnant of a time when I didn’t like myself a whole lot….I mean I still don’t but the point is the Herbalcrackpot is a result of a decision I took two years ago and a lot’s happened and I’ve changed a lot since then.

People have always had this perception of me as a creepy psychotic weirdo. Which is understandable as my social skills are lacking to say the least. So my idea was to exaggerate that perception of me by about 5000% and make it a character to hammer home this perception as ridiculous. However recently I’ve started to regret the entire thing as people’s perceptions of the writer and the character and the line between the two….well let’s just say I feel uncomfortable still playing into this perception when I’m really not that person who invented Herbalcrackpot any more. In the past year or so since I finished the first run of OOC, a lot’s happened and the Herbalcrackpot feels alien to me now. I feel that trying to use this perception of me to my advantage kind of failed in practice and continuing to use it when I feel that I’m really not the same person I was last year would be counter-productive.

I’d also call the Fifty Shades reviews instrumental in this decision. As ridiculous, misguided, grandiose and yes I’ll admit it: self indulgent that mammoth project was, it taught me a lot about self presentation and how you can’t remove yourself from your videos and they can play a massive role in how people perceive you. Granted the version of me seen in the Fifty Shades reviews is still exaggerated quite a lot (and I mean a lot) but going back to Out of Context in this second run just taught me a lot about how people used to see me and how people see me now. I just feel out of place in that context, so I’m going out of context of out of context if you will….that was a complicated sentence.

I’ll probably still use the unreliable reviewer shtick but dress it up differently as I still really like that idea but I just feel I’ve outgrown the way in which I presented it.

STUFF THAT I’M DEFINITELY CONTINUING WITH

WTF Just Happened? – Hoping for more of this though we’re not sure how/when/etc of how we’re going to proceed with it. You basically know what its gonna be if you’ve ever listened before. Again, please share our feed if you’ve ever shown an interest in anything seen on this site.

Metroblog – why not? Its a good writing exercise more than anything really.

STUFF I’M THINKING ABOUT DOING (Nothing concrete, just maybe if I can be arsed)

An Illustrated Review of Fifty Shades Darker This was always inevitable, I’m not putting a time stamp on this though, probably will be this year but there’s no guarantee. And no it probably wouldn’t be as prohibitively long as the first series. Watching back An Illustrated Review of Fifty Shades of Grey, I understand that yes I went too overboard with it. And yes, since the book is so unbearably repetitive my critique ended up being quite repetitive. If I do end up making it then I’ll probably end up preparing it and uploading it around the middle of the year, closer to the movie release date. People are still saying Christian Grey’s character has layers, the perception that this pop culture phenomenon is more than porn with a fucked up world view does need hammering home some more really.

Stubagful’s Literary Review – I’ve had this idea floating around since the Fifty Shades thing. Original thought was 10 minute stickmen adaptation/review of those shitty erotica books you’ve seen in supermarkets since the Fifty Shades phenomenon (e.g. Eighty Days Yellow etc). But if I just take it as “Books I know I shouldn’t be reading” I think I’d have more ground to cover and jokes I could make. It’d basically be the same formula but shorter, snappier and punchier.

Standup – I started trying to do standup comedy between mid 2009 and sometime in January 2011 and stopped because I hated it. I mostly gave up, not because I wasn’t getting laughs (wasn’t getting many but I did get a few) – I have confidence issues and people say standup’s a good cure for that, and since I have a lot more material now I’m thinking about spending some time trying it again, as practice more than anything. Check my twitter @5tuarthardy for updates if I’ll be at open mic nights near you….yeah like anyone’s gonna do that Stuart. Anyway that’ll be my excuse for not uploading videos or podcasts or blogs for a bit.

This is Happening Now! – This is the least likely to happen unless I can get some help with it and figure out how it would actually work. Basically the idea is to take an hour’s worth of news broadcast from any channel that does news shows, and critique their news style and journalistic technique. Sort of like my Metro blogs. Each week we take a news source and deconstruct it and take the line of logic presented and apply it to other situations with ridiculous results. Again, least likely to happen this year but its an idea I’d like to explore at some point in the future.

He Who Moans – I only really started reviewing nu-Doctor Who on youtube because I was tired and frustrated that my fellow Doctor Who nerds would endlessly go off about how brilliant it is every week when even though I’m a massive fan of the show, we have to admit the quality wanders between shit and awesome far too much and so I attempted to approach reviewing it critically speaking as a nerd for storytelling technique rather than as a fanboy as a form of quality assurance. So when people look back at what people thought of Doctor Who it isn’t through the rose tinted spectacles of fandom. However I have got bored of that and there are far too many people reviewing new episodes of Doctor Who to make myself stand out. That and a lot of people seem to take offence to the contentious shit I say (paticularly about the 9th and 10th Doctors) for which I’m sorry, I don’t want to upset people, and yes I am being serious about that, its all just my open opinion of stuff. However some people appreciate my slanted take on Doctor who so I will probably make some more of these for those people (cheers guys 🙂 )

Stubagful’s NaNoWriMo “Future Highs” – I do want to actually finish my compulsary drugs concept novel. It got a bit out of hand in the last week of NaNoWriMo and I forgot to do an ending update because….well yeah it got a bit stupid but I think if I take my time with it then I can tidy it up a bit and finish it and shove it out as an epub for the hell of it.

Again, none of this shit is definitely going to happen and if it is, then it won’t be any time soon. Again, if you like what you see or hear….or touch or smell for people with freaky mind powers, then please tell your friends and share it. Also email wtfsatire@gmail.com if you like what you see and want to hire me to make you stuff.

Thanks for reading/watching/listening 🙂 Goodbye 2013.

And now here’s me saying all of that in a boring video. Yay!!!

Other casting ideas for Christian in the Fifty Shades of Grey movies

There’s been a huge uproar in the fan base of this awful franchise that Fifty Shades has somehow managed to retain since people outside its demographic actually started reading it and seeing it for the dangerous endorsement of abusive relationships and terrible writing that is is, over who should play Christian Grey in the movie adaptation currently in the works.

First choice announced was Charlie Hunnam who the fanbase didn’t approve of. I can see why, he’s an English actor who can’t do an American accent for shit. Then again he has a history of playing lecherous scumbags so it does fit with the role quite well. But he dropped out citing he wants to spend more time on TV roles and with his family…allegedly. My guess is he was flattered at first being offered the role of sexy Christian Grey who all the ladies fawn over…then he actually picked up the book and read it.  The same process the media has been going through since people started saying its good for feminism. Its important to actually read something before you start talking about its “message”.

Allegedly almost every big name Hollywood actor they’ve approached turned it down. When the rights were sold every actor wanted a piece of it because it would stroke their egos to see how sexy they apparently are. Now, none of them want to do it because they’ve read it and realised how poorly written it is and is probably going to be the next laughably bad Hollywood failure. So the first actor to say yes was someone off a kind of popular TV show. Now who’s their backup choice? A former Calvin Klein model who was in a BBC mini series once….wow, sure feel some star power attached to this thing.

So in case there’s going to be another backlash and last minute cast change and he’ll end up making a statement that he chose to leave and wasn’t pushed, I thought I’d offer my two cents on other potential casting choices for Christian Grey.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS FOR CASTING CHRISTIAN GREY

MOSS

Moss is such an underrated piece of vegetation. It can survive and grow pretty much anywhere. So whether this movie flops or not, you can be guaranteed that moss will survive and flourish regardless. So when this film inevitably becomes a box office failure because they took too long and Fifty Shades fell out of favour in popular culture and they’re now rushing it and having last minute casting problems, moss will carry on and keep up the good work of growing on rocks and starring in endless weepy soap operas. That and you’ve got to admit its absolutely gorgeous and appeals to all sorts of people. Whatever your type, Moss will satisfy your needs.

THIS PILE  OF BRICKS

 This Pile of Bricks has been acting since the very beginning. From when Jesus was doing magic tricks for easily impressed people with green skin conditions to when Shakespeare wrote the Tempest, a pile of bricks has always been there giving its all. Its last role was a heartfelt performance as Lois Lane in Man of Steel. Honestly when I was reading Fifty Shades of Grey I could definitely see this pile of bricks delivering such beautiful lines like “because I’m fifty Shades of fucked up Anastasia” and “you’ve disarmed me Anastasia, with your innocence”. Try reading some of these lines and not seeing them delivered by a pile of housing material. Deep.

THIS DRAWING OF A SNAIL THAT I DID

snail

He may be young, in fact since I only drew him 30 seconds ago, he’s definitely too young for this role, but he’s a fun little guy with a big heart. That may sound a bit strange a choice for casting Christian Grey but just because this drawing of a snail I did isn’t personally true to the character of Christian that doesn’t mean he can’t portray the part. He’s also very clever and could easily grasp the mindset of such a warped character. Not to mention; this drawing of a snail I did has the sex appeal akin to Christian Grey. He’s sexier than a carpet but not too sexy like a stapler, he’s just in the middle so he’ll fit realistically into this role.

THE GUY THAT PLAYED ROD IN BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR.

Come on ladies, you know this one makes perfect sense.

The World’s End – The Cornetto wrapper is hollow and empty

So yeah, has anyone noticed how utterly disappointing almost every movie released so far this summer has been? Not just content to flaunt expectations, most movies have taken a dump on hope of being one of those life affirming revelatory moments for a fan of that franchise. This is not to say some of the highly anticipated summer blockbusters like Man of Steel, Monsters University, World War Z and Star Trek Into Darkness have ended up being awful, but they have all failed to meet expectations and left you with a bitter taste in your mouth. Were our expectations impossible to meet? Possibly. But a six year return to a franchise yielding results like this takes the fucking cake for disappointments of the summer.

The World’s End – the third outing for the comedy team of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright – has somehow managed to sum up the failure of summer 2013 to live up to expectations while not actually being very good in itself. Its an intelligent and articulate point they’ve made about the party being over and the quality of the movie reflects it…but its not a fun movie to watch which negates anything artistic about it. Its really, really not a good film, but its at least interesting, its a talking point.

A little history. I am a massive fan of the two films that preceeded this. Shaun of the Dead was a British romantic comedy movie set during a zombie apocalypse and the comedy mostly played off the fact the implied importance of romantic relationships is dwarfed by gory zombie violence. The people that made it followed up with Hot Fuzz, which took action cop movie cliches and set it in a small rural village and the comedy played mostly off rural villages being weird and unsettling and cop movie cliches being out of place in the setting. These movies were both incredibly funny and both included a joke about a cornetto, and when the same team approached a third idea for what they deemed the “three flavours cornetto trilogy”. It took quite a while for a follow up because the extreme success of Hot Fuzz sent its stars to Hollywood and their careers have taken off since then and now returning for a third film in the general style of the previous two feels…odd. So they sort of did and sort of didn’t.

The big criticism of Hot Fuzz was that although it was fun, it was kind of a similar deal to Shaun of the Dead. I’ve never really got this criticism, they created their own style, you know you’re watching a Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright film, crafting your own voice is hard to do, especially so in the waning British film industry. And while changing the formula and experimenting is something to be encouraged, The World’s End really didn’t feel like it was part of the cornetto trilogy and while different doesn’t always equal bad, it felt uninspired and like it was trying too hard to recapture past glories…which is what happens to be the central theme of the film. This is a difficult thing to wrap your brain around, so is the film turning out to be a disappointing attempt to recreate the past successes of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz a play on the film being about a character trying desperately hard to recreate the past and doing it badly?

When approaching the movie from the frame of mind that its been ten years since Shaun of the Dead and Pegg, Wright and Frost are all ostensibly different people now, the idea was to have a group of friends who enjoyed a brilliant night out on an epic pub crawl and one of the friends who hasn’t grown up and is desperately trying to recapture the days of his youth drags them all back to their home town while his former friends have moved on and have new lives now and he feels lost in a world that’s moved on without him….goofy sci-fi comedy everybody! So was the uninspired limply directed alien invasion that’s going on in the town that doesn’t want him a metaphor for Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s lack of inspiration? Who knows?

That’s the thing, its not the idea that’s bad. The idea of returning to your former home thinking it’ll be the same and wondering if its you that’s changed or the town and it turns out it actually is the town is interesting and reflects the film makers’ own personal journey into stardom quite well and I get that. But the World End feels more like its main character than they probably wanted it to be. Gary King is clinging onto when he was young, radical and popular, but now he’s in his late thirties when he goes back to that old setting, things really don’t feel the same no matter how much he wants them to be. Just like with the film, the same people have got together but the atmosphere isn’t there, something’s changed.

Its flat, its not funny, its uninspired and feels like a completely wasted opportunity and that Pegg and Wright really don’t have anything more to say and that they really want to try other projects and that they feel bound to this old friend who’s stayed the same and wants everyone back together. But that old friend is us; the audience. We wanted this. We waited six years for this, we want the old spark from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and it just isn’t there anymore.

People have been making excuses about people expecting this to be a comedy and finding it to be full of neuroses, depression and mid-life crisis that maybe that’s not what they were going for, it wasn’t supposed to be a comedy. Y’know what? Fine. If Pegg and Wright feel they have more to say as film makers and they feel they’ve outgrown the quick cuts (which are strangely absent which is what makes me doubt its really a cornetto movie) then great. Fine. I am fully willing to watch Pegg and Wright grow as storytellers and I got what this movie was trying to say. The problem is if you can’t decide what you want to be you end up not being anything at all. What was this? Was it a deep character study piece? Was it a sci-fi comedy? Was it a metaphor for mid life crisis? Most importantly was it meant to be funny? Well yes it was because there are all these lines that sound like jokes and there are pauses as though we’re meant to laugh but there’s just silence in the cinema and the awkward sense that…holy shit they just failed. Pegg and Wright just failed to make me laugh…this is not a good sign.

The direction is an interesting point. Edgar Wright is incredibly talented. He has unique quirks in his camera placement that make his films instantly recognisable, he’s one of few directors who can truly make a funny script funnier. All of this is completely absent in the movie. The action is also very flatly directed and very simplistic when this is fucking Edgar Wright here, the man who put the R is quirky. His last big project was Scott Pilgrim for crying out loud. But the camera movement just felt very stock, very Hollywood and just left me bewildered that this was directed by Edgar Wright. In fact until I see the making of footage, I refuse to believe this was directed by Edgar Wright.

Another point: the build up. Pretty much the first half an hour is exposition for our wild night of aliens and robots and stuff. NO HINTS WHATSOEVER THAT ITS ABOUT ALIENS. None, nothing. One of the ingenious things about the opening to Shaun of the Dead was it was a man going about his daily life not noticing the escalating zombie apocalypse subtly growing in the background. In Hot Fuzz its a more simple murder mystery but here…smack! Right the fuck out of nowhere after half an hour of trying to establish our characters, all of whom are stereotypes anyway. Don’t get me wrong, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsen and especially Paddy Considine are pretty good with a script that doesn’t seem to have a whole lot for them to do. David Bradley also stands out pretty well in a minor role.

Another obvious complaint is Simon Pegg is not the right man for this character. Frost is the wild party animal who hasn’t grown up, Pegg is the slightly straight man who gets less straight over the course the film. I get changing it up but for God’s sake Pegg and Frost are really not good at playing each other’s characters. Pegg’s strong point is deadpan humour. I maintain his best performance is his guest star role in the episode of Black Books he’s in where he plays a boring corporate bookshop manager who is almost psychotic in his demands for everything to be normal and to follow a boring set of rules. But he’s got nothing to work with here and his character just comes across as reprehensible. I know you’re supposed to feel sorry for him but Frost does that well, Pegg however just comes across as a prick that needs to grow up and loses sympathy because of his demeanour. Pegg and Frost have realised far too late that they’re typecast.

I could go on but overall it just left me feeling like Wright and Pegg stopped wanting to do films in this style quite a long time ago and that they really shouldn’t have promised us a third film. The Cornetto movies worked because they felt like the creators wanted to make them and were enthused by the ideas, the World’s End feels like a movie where the makers don’t really want to be here and I don’t think that was a clever artistic statement based on what the film happens to be about.

Dear Youtube: Claim dispute process…needs reviewing guys

Okay so this video’s had two seperate copyright disputes lodged against it. The second one happened today and was revoked a few hours later after I sent back a dispute message along the lines of the phrase “what the shit guys?”

Anyone unaware, when you upload a video to youtube, it gets put through this automatic software that tries to detect a match to content in youtube’s library of copyright holders in order to determine if someone’s used third party content without permission. Youtube and a bunch of people working for youtube do this because they don’t want to get their butts sued by any multinational media corporations such as in this case the BBC. Depending on how much of an annoyance or a threat to youtube livelihood the video is in punishing the whole for actions of a few which if SOPA said anything, dickheads that don’t really “get” the internet are fully willing to do and could potentially happen if youtube’s used for straight up piracy. The video will get restricted presence because of this.

You can choose to acknowledge the claim and just let the penalties go or dispute it if you don’t think it should have penalties against it for a set list of reasons (that for some reason you can only choose one of) and sometimes it will be let go, most of the time they’ll just leave it for a bit and reinstate it.

The penalties vary. The video could be blocked in some countries like this one I uploaded mid-last year:

If you can see it good, if you can’t…well it wasn’t one of my better ones so it probably doesn’t matter. In some countries they can see it because the copyright laws work differently inside the EU and in the US and in Asia, there’s a minefield of differences to consider in blocking a video in a certain country. The above video review of awful eighties ET ripoff “Mac and Me” (the irony of being claimed to rip something off in a video review of a movie that openly was a ripoff is hilarious) and was blocked because I used the song “The Fast Food Song” by the Fast Food Rockers……I don’t even think the record label would care if someone used “The Fast Food Song” by the Fast Food Rockers in a video, let alone sue youtube over it. But I had to click acknowledge the claim letting it go because yes, I used that song to make my video seem a bit more professional and in keeping with the theme I was using so technically I was in the wrong.

The best thing you can hope for if you match third party content is the video is still available but now your account isn’t viable for advertising revenue that some get and an advert offering viewers to buy a song or TV show or movie featured will be placed by the video. So this penalty is pretty much harmless and mutually recognizes the video’s respect for its third party content included in it and was what happened to my review of the Doctor Who episode “Closing Time” before I disputed it on the grounds of fair use.

Fair use is the main get out of jail free card used in online video and is the main reason you see so many people posting video reviews of movies, TV, music etc as opposed to their own stuff. Cause hell, I’m one man with a camera, I can’t make much in the way of professional video or pay people, and I like talking about movies and stuff, and so reviewing was where I decided to go with online video and where most people do when trying to get people to listen to them without being called theives.

My Closing Time review had a second complaint lodged this morning a few weeks after the first one which was the next level of complaint penalty, effectively blocking the video from youtube. This appeared random, as it had been available and online for a while and the dispute had been resolved beforehand, and now it had gone to red alert. The dispute’s been dropped now so I have no visual evidence, but it claimed I was using footage from Doctor Who entitled “season 6 episode 5 The Rebel Flesh part 1 of 3” from BBC worldwide……I immediately lodged a complaint saying the obvious “no I didn’t” because I didn’t and won and we’re back online and viewable again.

See this is the problem when you use automated software to do copyright checks and don’t actually bother watching the videos, you’re going to stumble across the issue of what is and what isn’t fair use and what does and doesn’t look like piracy. I mean I fucking stated outright in the first ten seconds of that video I owned none of the rights to the footage and was using it for criticism and review covered under fair use and put it in the description, this is all I needed to do and yet still this video got shit on twice. I am more than entitled to say what the fuck to that. My other videos are a different matter as whether I’ve done some legal or illegal in the ones with account penalties next to them is a grey area.

When you’re utilizing footage to make a point about that footage or using it to demonstrate a separate point you’re trying to make, then its okay but when it comes to just using the footage or music to make a work better or seem more professional, then we call copyright into question…or do we? ….yeah who knows, but I have some quibbles with how this is applied to the youtube claim/dispute system.

Copyright literally means, the right to copy that work for commercial gains. IE. when an author has a book published by a publisher, they sign the right to copy that work to the publisher to print the book so technically the publisher is now the owner of that work. Its okay if you are aware that say Trent Reznor or anyone else open minded about online incorporation of their work into new work and thinks its okay, the publishers hold the cards and all the publishers care about is money, so it isn’t. The artist’s opinion doesn’t hold much water when we come to intellectual property law unless the artist is the one with all the copyrights.

Problem is, when copyright is handled by a multitude of greedy people, we get flimsy definitions of copyright pandered around in the bid to call people “thieves” which I think have quite a lot of holes in. When people like me use third party content on youtube, we are not claiming we made it, and this has nothing to do with copyright and has only been pulled out of thin air because you want to make people sound worse than they actually are. Because for some reason no one stops and thinks “hang on…that’s the dumbest piece of shit insult against people using third party content ever. A toddler could see why this accusation of claiming its yours doesn’t make the slightest ounce of sense and yet the claims system is set up in favour of this baffling reason.

Internet culture allows for parody, review and all that shit but unlike a lot of mediums, it also allows for third party use because we are not profiting from it and have no desire to call it our own work. If the automated software thought I was calling an episode of doctor who my own work then that is why the system needs reviewing because no real person anywhere EVER would think that I, a long haired childish yeti man who lives in some shithole in England with some office job, barely any friends and barely any money, personally made a rather expensive production with the words “DOCTOR WHO” and “OWNED BY THE BBC” on it. You would have to be completely fucking retarded to think I am calling the footage used my own work, especially since it contains the words “this is not my own work” and is a review of the work it contains footage of. I’m using the platform of reviews because I’m legally covered and also because I like making videos about stuff I find interesting, in this case TV, books and movies. And unless you hadn’t noticed, I’m not exactly getting a whole lot of attention for it that could be attention given to the creative work and publisher providing them business. If a video that uses footage or a song has about thirty views, I don’t think you need to worry that maybe people won’t buy your shit now that someone’s re-purposed it here. I’m not a serious threat and a pirate, I’m someone with an internet account and a hobby.

This is creative extrovertism, an exercise in time wasting no different in that respect to watching a movie, going to a pub, doing something outside that regular people do. This isn’t a business, its a hobby. Granted some people use the platform of videos for business but I’m not. I’m not getting any money from it and trying to resort to fair use as it means this shit won’t happen as much because software isn’t programmed with definitions of copyright law. I am not a business and I know there’s barely any chance of many people watching my work and liking it but its something to do and so that’s why I do it. Not because I’m claiming a bit of something I found and used in my work is mine or because I want people to watch me instead of buying the original work. I’m making and uploading videos and saying “watch this if you want to” on a budget of zero and including a list of where I got the stuff that isn’t mine from. I am no threat to your business. I’m not uploading full movies or TV episodes like a lot of youtubers, I’m making videos with bits of other people’s work in them because its something to do, not because I want to steal, there is a difference and this is the reason copyright claims and disputes of random arseholes like me on the internet does not work.

So dear people in charge of youtube copyright dispute system. You can easily differentiate a hobbyist from a pirate with one simple test:

WATCH THE VIDEOS BEFORE CRYING ABOUT THEM

Stu

Stuart Reviews David Bowie’s Entire Discography from start to finish Part 7: The Next Day

We had no right to expect this album. I know that myself and every avid fan of David Bowie, which includes a lot of people and given my age I cannot really place my longing for a return from David Bowie at the top of that list of desirents, we were all praying this would happen but no one really held out any hope for it. David Bowie has been in music long enough. He has had, I think I can say as much effect on pop music as we know it as all the greats, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, you don’t need me to tell you that David Bowie is in that category of people you can’t believe are actually still alive. Legendary. The stories have been told so many time it seems weird to think they’re actually people and actually still around. He has made so many albums, performed so many times, if anyone deserved to retire, especially following a heart attack it was Bowie. We had no right to expect a new album.

We also had no right to expect, if on the minuscule chance it did happen for it to be any good. We don’t need another incredible David Bowie album. We really should be content with the lifetime of work readily available. When surprised by a sudden return, even if it sounded like a child straining out diarrhea into a potty while scraping a cat’s head against a wall, given that this is a sixty six year old man who really deserved to not have to bother anymore given his back catalogue returning to work when he really doesn’t have a whole lot of time left on this planet anyway because, well, who are we kidding here? We had no right to expect it to be good. The fact it is is just a bonus.

It feels weird listening to it and realising just what you’re listening to. I think it probably feels this way for everyone as no one expected it. Has a doorway to a parallel dimension been opened? Is this really David Bowie or an incredibly talented impressionist? Well, that would be even less likely given the quality of the finished product. If by the off chance you actually accept the baffling fact that this is a new David Bowie album, something no one thought possible, when you actually calm down and take the music at face value: by Christ is this a moody album.

Emotionally draining is how I’d describe the Next day, something summed up quite well by the cover art which up until I heard more about the album I assumed was a joke. Forgetting or obliterating the past is the theme; subverting a revered classic to make it jarring. Sums the album up perfectly as the album is a mixture of unsettling and melancholy. Not exactly something to be listened to when you’re in a good mood.

The opening track sounds upbeat and jaunty enough at first, almost like his eighties material, except with a loud and a bit fuzzy voice; kind of like he doesn’t want you listening to him. As you move through Dirty Boys and the beautifully downbeat The stars are out tonight, the album feels like its taking bits and pieces of Bowie’s various styles he’s flirted with over the years and sucking the life out of them. The ballads, the glam rock, the industrial electronic stuff, the soul tinged rock, its all there but its all taken a downward turn, its looking back and spitting at it all.

And its awesome.

I mean really, though I don’t think his last few albums are nearly as mediocre/poor as most people do, this is probably his best since Outside. I’d probably compare it to Outside as the mood and atmosphere take precedence in the album’s composition. Its very downbeat, its very grimy, its gone none of the shiny trendy plastic film of pop music enhancing the sound.

If you’ve been reading my look back through Bowie’s discography you’ll know I prefer it when Bowie’s cool and trying to make a point as opposed to his appeal to a mass audience, Scary Monsters over Let’s Dance. The Next Day is probably the least commercial pop music you will ever hear by a major artist.

All this emotion is drawn from Bowie’s years out of the public eye. He pretty much vanished off the face the Earth for a decade and much of the album feels like a statement about what it feels like to be invisible. It doesn’t feel self indulgent though which is odd. Its a melancholy reflection on the vapidity of stardom and life behind the scenes: subverting the past. This album is something you need to hear.

But make sure to do something to cheer yourself up afterwards. Go for a walk in the park, grow a sunflower, sing a song, buy a puppy, eat marshmallows. You will need it after this.

Stuart Reviews David Bowie’s Entire Discography from start to finish Part 6: The 00’s

Yes, I refuse to use the word  “noughties” If you can’t see why then please look in the mirror and then smash your head on it for being a twat.

HEATHEN (2002)

Given what people say about Bowie’s early 2000’s offerings (i.e. nothing)
I really wasn’t expecting much from the two we got. By this point he really didn’t need to bother making albums at all. He’d had his rise and his lull, he’d also had his comeback and by 2002, there really wasn’t anything else Bowie really needed to do with his career. You may be thinking that always equals disasters, since if you have nothing new to say, why go ahead and say it? Well that doesn’t mean Heathen was pointless. There are other reasons for making albums outside needing to. That being because you want to.

Heathen feels like a more grown up effort than most of his albums because he wasn’t trying to convince people of his chameleonic ability to fit in with any genre of music. Heathen is an album about terror and decay in a world where the young have to kill the old and his coming to realise he is old. Its Bowie putting his status as a trend setter to one side and recording a rather haunting album making clear that in the face of decay, he’s still here. Its awesome.

REALITY (2003)

As the title suggests, this album is probably the most normal one he’s ever made. Not say its bad, its a fun listen and like Heathen, more grown up than his previous efforts. Classic rock for the modern age is what I’d say.

Not as dark as Heathen, Reality is David Bowie coming down to earth and though pointless, its ultimately listenable. I don’t know why I can’t muster up anything else to say really, its good. Its actually very good and a lot better than people give it credit for. Its just…Reality really was such a good name for the album. It sums it up perfectly so I don’t have to.

THE TEN YEAR ABSENCE (2003-2013)

So Bowie had a heart attack on his last tour and quite understanably went into a quiet retirement afterwards. Occasionally making guest appearances with other bands and acting in Christopher Nolan’s best film…yeah you heard me, it was the best one! And randomly a Spongebob Squarepants TV movie. And other random cameos and things.

I almost feel bad that I and millions of other David Bowie fans were calling for his return for so long. Constant album production and touring for thirty five years, it was only right he took some time out. And he’d had a heart attack, that would put the shits up anyone really. That and if Reality and Heathen said anything, in spite of their quality, David Bowie has made enough albums.

The only reason for David Bowie returning at all was if he had anything more he wanted to make.

And given what The Next Day sounds like, thank fuck he had more in him.