"Where Are We Now?"
Producer: Tony Visconti
Leave it to David Bowie to ask the question, in song, that we'd all like to put to him -- namely, where the hell has he been? It's been a good nine years of seclusion for the rock auteur, and a decade since his last album. The stately, subdued and atmospheric "Where Are they Now?," which precedes March's "The Next Day," doesn't provide a lot of answers, though its references to Berlin landmarks such as Potsdamer Pltaz, Nurnberger Strasse and the KaDeWe store indicate he's been spending some time in the city that inspired his late 70s "Low," "Heroes" and "Lodger" albums. There, the characteristically open-ended lyrics tell us, he's been "a man lost in time... just walking the dead." Produced by frequent Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti, "Where Are We Now?" boasts some of the ambience of that Berlin trilogy and also shares a slow-burn commonality with a number of U2 ballads, particularly in the gently propulsive bridge that leads to the song's instrumental outro, a lush, winding pattern that just cries out for The Edge's spiraling guitar heroics. It's a gentle but certainly welcome return of the Thin White Duke.