Another birthday, another release. Unfortunately without the master himself. Now this release was not as spectacular as his new single in 2013, let alone the 'Blackstar' album last year. The album that landed like a bomb to be followed by a nuclear blast just two days later. Something that most likely was very well orchestrated by the master of deception himself. In fact, this release I noticed only several days after the release. To my surprise I couldn't even buy the EP in the shop. "Perhaps something for record store day", for a ridiculous price, no doubt (Wo.), said the man behind the counter.
Leaving that alone, let's turn to No Plan. The EP starts with the familiar tones of 'Lazarus', the single of 'Blackstar' with that spectacular video, where Bowie from the looks of it was actimg with his last strength. And the title song of the musical of course. What I understand is that the other three songs are rest material from the 'Blackstar' sessions that find their way to the world finally.
'Lazarus' is a spectacular song and one of the highlights of 'Blackstar'. No doubt there. As it is a song that we know for over a year now, I will leave it that and focus on the other three songs.
The title song of the EP is a Bowie ballad. It faintly reminds me of his two über ballads from 'Station To Station', 'Wild Is The Wind' and 'Word On A Wing', but quality wise it's closer to his work from around 2000. So o.k., but not spectacular. Having noted that, 'No Plan' is a soothing song. "There's no traffic here, no plan", Bowie sings, preluding to where he is now? Again this aged voice, crooning away. 'No Plan' in no way reminds me of what's going on on "Blackstar'. It's a much more conventional song, that would have created a perfect point of rest on the album. So definitely on my good side.
'Killing A Little Time' is a different beast. That fierce rhythm or better drumming is back. It's as if the drummer is on this planet of his own, with all else orbiting his drums. It hardly takes any imagination to hear 'Killing A Little Time' as if it was a 'No Plan' song. Bowie is singing almost a ballad and then the song kicks in. The harsh lead guitar, the honking sax and all else, career spanning sounds move in and out of the mix. Even the piano of 'Aladdin Sane' is there for a brief moment. A leftover, sure, but one that can live in its own right.
The pleasant rhythm of 'When I Met You' moves in, changing the mood of No Plan yet again. More of a regular rocker than any other song of the ten we now know from his last recording sessions. Again estranging elements are let in, after which we go back to an acoustic guitar and a nice rocking rhythm. Although, a little more in the background that drummer is still pounding away. The chorus is not the best Bowie has ever written. His imagination to come up with something different was still well in place. Sounds and his voice come in from all sides to let us know how he met "you".
No Plan, as said, is only available digitally, but certainly a nice addition to 'Blackstar' and Bowie's oeuvre in general. Death inspired that much is clear. If this was it, musically, then David Bowie managed to leave this world and us, his fans, with a great salute for us all. A year down the line it is easy to conclude that 'Blackstar' is among his finest albums and one the most special records ever released. No Plan is a very nice desert.
You can listen to 'No Plan' here: