Chuck Arnold
March 01, 2013 08:40 PM

Ten years after his last album, David Bowie is back – and so is his swagger.

Forget the moody musings of “Where Are We Now?” – the reflective comeback single that he dropped, seemingly out of nowhere, on his Jan. 8 birthday. The Next Day – which, though not released until March 12, began streaming in its entirety on iTunes on Friday – represents much more of an emphatic, energetic return from the 66-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

“We’ll never be rid of these stars/ But I hope they live forever,” sings Bowie, sounding like the immortal rock god he is over the glittering guitar-pop bounce of “The Stars (Are Out Tonight).”

It’s one of many driving, guitar-charged tracks on The Next Day: You can just imagine Ziggy Stardust getting his groove on to the bouncy beat of “Dancing Out in Space,” while “(You Will) Set the World on Fire” is a rocking, fist-pumping anthem for today’s young Americans.

Elsewhere, “Dirty Boys” is a sleazy grinder that, with its saxed-up funkiness, harks back to his soulful periods like 1975’s Young Americans. In another nod to Bowie’s past, The Next Day was produced by Tony Visconti, who also worked on the star’s Berlin Trilogy albums from 1977 to 1979.

On one of the standouts, the melodic, midtempo “I’d Rather Be High,” the album takes a political turn with Bowie’s anti-war message: “I’d rather be dead or out of my head/ Than training these guns on those men in the sand.”

It’s moments like these that make The Next Day a triumphant comeback from a much-missed icon.

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