Rock legend David Bowie was a bit of a late bloomer in the business of rock ’n’ roll. Even though he was only 17 years old when he released his debut single in 1964, he would never achieve commercial success and critical acclaim till the 70s. His first three solo albums failed to set the music world alight and in fact, Hunky Dory – which would become his fourth LP – started life as a demo to secure a new recording contract, which he duly did with RCA Records.
Hunky Dory finds Bowie in pure singer-songwriter mode – which was in vogue around the time – thus, the individual songs are quite strong and the production values rather straightforward – with simple pop-rock/folk-rock instrumentation and arrangements by and large.
Backing Bowie would be the musicians that would subsequently form The Spiders from Mars (with the exception of Rick Wakeman on piano) viz. Mick Ronson (guitars, mellotron), Trevor Bolder (bass, trumpet) and Mick Woodmansey (drums).
Many of Bowie’s classic material – “Changes”, “All You Pretty Things”, “Life on Mars?” “Quicksand” and “Kooks” (written for his son, Zowie – director Duncan Jones) – were recorded during this fecund period. The second half had Bowie pay tribute to his heroes viz. Andy Warhol (“Andy Warhol”), Bob Dylan (“Song For Bob Dylan”) and Lou Reed (“Queen Bitch”) whilst “The Bewley Brothers” concerned Bowie’s relationship with his mentally disturbed brother, Terry.
After Hunky Dory, Bowie would adopt the persona of Ziggy Stardust and found fame and fortune and the rest of his 70s would see Bowie acting out different roles, played out on his discography.
So perhaps, on Hunky Dory, fans could see Bowie for who he was – before he decided to change the face of rock music irretrievably.
Bands like Brighton-based duo MIAMIGO demonstrate that the 80s is still very much a touchstone for modern rock artists.
“What I Want” is taken off the duo’s well received EP – Hard To Love (which was released in June earlier this year) and 80s pop lovers will thrill to the dynamic basslines and the insistent guitar chord patterns.
The video itself is a lofi shaky cam affair that fits the fidgety nature of the single itself. Worth a closer inspection.
Into their second single for Sony Music, it’s clear that The Sam Willows have honed their pop technique to a tight construct with “For Love” – the chorus comes with soaring banks of vocals even if the familiar melody does not move listeners that much.
The song recalls Imagine Dragons, Of Monsters & Men and even the quartet’s own “Glasshouse”. Not quite as incongruous as its predecessor “Take Heart”, this time the electro-pop elements complement the song rather well.
The message behind the video is strong and to the band’s credit maintains a personal emotional connection. It might be too close to the bone for many people but if pop music can be used to touch hearts, minds and souls in this manner then kudos to The Sam Willows for at least, taking their best shot at making a statement!
The name Kurt brought me back 18 years where Saturdays were spent jamming to “Aneurysm” and “Lithium” at a run-down studio in Yishun. I have always associated Kurt with the frontman of Nirvana but today, I was looking at a different Kurt.
B’lieve I’m Going Down… is Kurt Vile’s fourth album with Matador Records. On the cover, he shows off the bountiful hair of a metalhead, poses like a gypsy guitar virtuoso and wears a pair of skinny jeans too tight for comfort.
I did not know what to expect.
The first song “ Pretty Pimpin” starts with an acoustic guitar picking before he sings about the struggles of self-recognition, in a manner highly reminiscent of Elliott Smith. Shifting into a lower register Lou Reed-like voice for much of the album, he sinks you into the depths of relaxation with lyrics like, “When I go out/I take pills to take the edge off/or to just take a chillax/man and forget about it”. Vile has got good writing chops if you can ignore the ‘stoner’ vibe and dive into his words. In this sense, the album’s chillax direction may work against him as new listeners might let his words drift by .
Overall, this album speaks about finding oneself by being more emotionally aware and going with the flow. Though I feel that Vile himself is in no hurry j – “Give it some time/Give it some time” on his last song “Wild Imagination”.
A good lofi indie rock/folk spin for your weekend.
Brenton recently completed my WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC course. Find out more from KAMCO Music.