David Bowie, oblique as ever in 2003. Things about Reality; it was his most ‘pop’ album in eons, since he fell in love with aggressive feedback in the 1990s; it was stronger on melody than anything since he fell in love with aggressive feedback in the 1990s; despite all that it was as though provoking as ever; and I thought the sleeve was pretty neat. Now, I think this song is very lovely, and I’m drawn by the lyrics, precisely because they’re impregnable, meaningwise. Reality, along with Heathen and “Hours…” form a trilogy that I like to call Autumn Bowie. Because, plainly, he’s been getting along in years and knows it, and has been writing less in angst and more with hardwon wisdom. I am still hoping for a next-wave Wintertime Bowie phase to come along, though he’s showing no signs of motivating towards the studio lately. Even if he’s adamantly in retirement, there must be what we scholars call ‘a fuckload’ of unreleased material just waiting to be excavated. It would be nice if he could at least pull it together to curate some of the tantalizing treasures from the vaults. There was recently a studio leak of his ‘lost’ album, Toy. This project was permanently shelved because of some snafu with his record label and the rights to the songs. I downloaded the bootleg. There’s some decent new songs, and several tracks that were later re-recorded and released on Heathen. The most interesting bits – and the main concept originally -are revisits to some old, old classics. He rerecorded new versions of Silly Boy Blue, The London Boys, Liza Jane, I Dig Everything and others, ditching the twee music-hall affectation of the originals and making them into up-to-date rock songs, with surprisingly good results. London Boys, for example, is no less moving with a heavier guitar overlay, and even gains from Bowie’s newly rueful delivery. It’s not exactly a new album, but it’s as close as we’ve got, so we’ll take it.