David Bowie's New Song: A Jazz Oddity?

Following its radio debut on Sunday, listen to Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime).

David Bowie's New Song: A Jazz Oddity?

IF THREE ALBUM COVERS and a host of latter day rarities weren’t enough to stir-up your interest in new, career-spanning David Bowie collection Nothing Has Changed, then there’s the small matter of a brand new song too. However, while his last surprise single, Where Are They Now?, was a wistful look back on his Berlin territory as it teed-up the all-new The Next Day, the near eight-minute Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) is a strange companion for a Greatest Hits. In fact, this collaboration with American composer Maria Schneider recorded in the summer – the pair did the music together while Bowie penned the words – is all rather jazz.

“There’s romantic betrayal and a subtle hint of murder by the end.”

With angled brass and woodwind and urgently brushed snare drums, the song’s hurried nature and deliberate musical jarrings initially create the impression that Bowie has teamed up with Peanuts’ school orchestra. However, with repeated plays, currently only made possible by rips following the track’s debut on Guy Garvey’s BBC Radio 6 show yesterday (listen below), something more coherent emerges.

Vocally reminiscent of Elvis Costello’s work with The Brodsky Quartet, Bowie’s delivery almost pugnaciously forces through the tune while Schneider’s orchestra are left to provide the avant-garde acrobatics. However, in the lyrics, The Dame matches the jazzers' range, swooning from the hopeful opening stanzas that find the narrator getting a new job and Sue’s x-rays turning out fine, to the melancholic imagery of grave stones and death, plus some romantic betrayal and a subtle hint of murder by the end.

Whether Bowie and Schneider’s collaboration is a one-off or the start of a beautiful friendship, we’re yet to be told, but as an opening gambit Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) suggests that this jazzy path is one the Thin White Duke should venture down further.