Sound — 6
It's been a year since David Bowie died, and there's still so much to unravel with all that he left. Die-hard fans are still finding secrets in his enigmatic 2016 album, "Blackstar," and with Bowie passing away only a couple days after its release, the primary theory that he composed the album as his swan song is now being challenged by Francis Whatley's latest documentary on Bowie's final years, stating that Bowie had intentions to release more music after that. Nevertheless, the last few years of Bowie's life proved to be quite productive, and though he may be gone, there's plenty of unreleased material from him to experience for years to come.
Bowie's first posthumous release, the four-song EP "No Plan," doesn't dive deep into the vault of unreleased music just yet, though. An addendum of material from the "Blackstar" recording sessions that had first appeared as extra tracks in the soundtrack for Bowie's recent Broadway musical, Lazarus, one can tell why these songs were odds and ends that couldn't quite make the cut for "Blackstar." This is partly due to some songs not matching the sonic themes that Bowie harnessed for the album - the acoustic-led "When I Met You" takes the "Ziggy Stardust"-era sound and juices it up with overlapping vocal production, and "Killing a Little Time" sets itself apart from the pack the most, with its grittier guitar distortion and spastic piano fits wielding a more unnerving vibe. But with the eponymous song taking the same somber, jazzy tone that dominated "Blackstar," having the song follow the more elaborate "Lazarus," which is the same as the "Blackstar" version, highlights its lower status in the pecking order that shows why it was left as a b-side.
Lyrics — 8
The music side may stand tangential, but Bowie's lyrics in "No Plan" line up in the same theme as those in "Blackstar," being ominous yet uncanny musings about his outlook towards his life and his art in his twilight years. This is especially potent in his terse uncertainty expressed in the eponymous song ("This is no place, but here I am / This is not quite yet") and the more fiery disclosures divulged in "Killing a Little Time" ("I've got a handful of songs to sing / To sting your soul / To fuck you over"), later settling down to forlorn reflection depicted in "When I Met You" ("When I met you / I was too insane / Could not trust a thing / I was off my head").
Overall Impression — 6
As a release that continues the pattern of being released on Bowie's birthday, as well as being the first release to commemorate the late Bowie, "No Plan" is a quick and simple first step of posthumous releases to come (it's likely that future releases will also be on Bowie's birthday to keep that pattern going). But though the lyrics in the EP continue the prescient expressions regarding his final moments, the music offered in "No Plan" is little more than an aftershock of the impact that "Blackstar" made.