Rock Synth Pop

David Bowie – Is It Any Wonder?

Second David Bowie post in two days (& third this week). Is It Any Wonder? is a six-track EP consisting of unreleased or rare tracks recorded in & around 1997.

To kick things off, there’s the version of The Man Who Sold The World from the ChangesNowBowie radio show (also released as a new album this year). This is a stripped back, downtempo, acoustic version of the song, reminiscent of the much lauded Nirvana cover. A conscious decision, I’m sure, & a moving tribute to the late Kurt Cobain.

The second track is a moving, moribund treatment of the Tin Machine song, I Can’t Read. This version was recorded during the mixing of Bowie’s ’97 album, Earthling (which I wrote about yesterday) & is said to have been Bowies preferred version of the song. Check out the video (above) for some great, artistic visuals. I particularly like the faces projected onto the white masks.

Stay 97 is an update of the track from 1976 album Station To Station. The idea was to bring older material in line, sonically, with the newer stuff from Earthling. This is achieved with motorik rhythms & crunchy, digitized guitar riffs.

Baby Universal 97 is a rerecording of another Tin Machine track. Originally intended as the penultimate track on Earthling, Bowie was aid to have being extremely fond of the track & didn’t think enough people had heard it before. This version is built around hard drum machine beats, thrashing guitars & a melodic soundscape of synth & vocals. I can easily imagine it sitting comfortably on Earthling.

Nuts is minimal, Junglist, Drum & Bass. Recorded in the Earthling sessions, Nuts was also originally slated for inclusion but was eventually left off the album. It’s incredibly atmospheric. A friend of mine says it reminds him of a lot of Eric Serras film soundtrack work, paticularly The Fifth Element & Goldeneye. I agree, but it also reminds me of the music for the excellent original PlayStation game, G-Police or Wipeout.

The final track is another version of The Man Who Sold The World. The ‘Eno’ Live Mix, 2020 remaster. This Brian Eno produced version transforms the song into a downtempo, Dub-influenced Trip Hop tune. This version was recorded in 1995 & released as a single alongside Strangers When We Meet. Heavy dubby basslines, delayed percussion & echoey sonar blips combine to create a truly contemporary (for 1995) sonic experience.

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