David Bowie on Insight

Nokia: Insight

14th November 2006

Welcome to the first dispatch from Music Recommenders’ esteemed ‘godfather’ David Bowie, who will be sharing his take on some of the best music the site has to offer right here, firing thoughts straight into the Insight section. For his first foray, we asked him to take a listen to our favourite selections from the last few months and comment on those that took his fancy. We were thrilled to get his thoughts on everything from the latest street sounds from the Congo to hype acts like Jamie T and New Young Pony Club:


It was time to dip a toe. So Nokia heaved a cavernous bucket of thus far recommended tracks at me and asked me to whittle them down to ten. Really not an easy task.

Fifty percent of the pieces were completely new to me and I don’t think it’s particularly fair to make judgement after only two or three plays. Some of my favourite works of all time took sixty-one listens before they became as loved as they are now. A couple took sixty-seven listens.

So I’ve had all the tracks playing in the background over the last couple of weeks, but in the end there were way more than ten candidates for the ‘jolly good’ box. Music Recommenders clearly has a strong team dotted around the globe.

Finally I picked ten at random and decided to review those regardless of how I felt about them. The numbers were always going to be on my side and fortunately I didn’t dislike a single one of the tracks that came out.

So here they are. Some you may already know and love, but hopefully there are more you’re not familiar with and Music Recommenders will become one of your first ports of call each month, when it’s time to feed your ears more brilliant stuff.

David Bowie – October 2006

Sheila – Jamie T
Jamie T is apparently being touted as the “pioneer of Thamesbeat”. I can dig that and get behind it, over it and a little bit underneath it. I was once myself a pioneer of the ‘Medway Sound’ back in ’65 with a bunch of longhaired chaps called The Manish Boys. Yeah, I know that’s not how you spell Mannish. But that’s how Muddy spelt it, and that was good enough for us.

Jamie is a 20-year-old songwriter with a keen wit and a bright future. Kind of how The Streets may have sounded if Alex Turner had formed the band, and come from Wimbledon. Considering Jamie’s use of the modern day vernacular, the inclusion of the sampled dialogue: “Good heavens you boys/Blue-blooded murder of the English tongue”, delivered by an elderly English actor (whose name, rather frustratingly, has escaped) followed by a, frankly disrespectful, belched “bleugh” by young Mr T, is a touch hilarious.

Insistor – Tapes N Tapes
I’ve had the Tapes ‘n Tapes’ album, “The Loon”, in my ‘to-listen-to’ pile for a while now, but I’ve not yet been able to make time for it. “Insistor” is the first single, and it’s cracking. It was a slow grower, but once that chorus digs in there’s really no escape.

If you find yourself trying to sing along, like I have, you best have access to the lyrics first. The band’s songwriter, Tapes, (obviously) seems to inhabit a different place to most and he’s not easy to second guess.

I have to say there’s a bit of an Arcade Fire feel to “Insistor”, and “The Loon” has now been elevated to ‘somewhere-near-the-top-of-the-pile’ status.

Atlantis To Interzone – Klaxons
“Atlantis To Interzone” isn’t Klaxons’ latest release, that track is called “Magick” and it has a suitably dark video, which is perhaps more Dawn Of The Dead than Golden Dawn (ahem… an example of my well known arcane humour).

Klaxons have been given the label ‘New Rave’ in the UK where there’s a bit of a buzz about them. But, to these ears, “Magick” is more Killing Joke than Happy Mondays. Still, I guess labels can be helpful early on in a band’s career. Where would the likes of myself and Chicory Tip be without that Glam Rock tag?

Rick Rubin – Spank Rock
No, Spank Rock isn’t the label of another new musical movement, it’s the name of this potty-mouthed hip hop/dirty rap outfit straight outta Baltimore. Superficially, “Rick Rubin” comes from a similar place as Prince’s “Get Off”. It’s a similarly confident old-skool funker that doesn’t want to be messed with… and it makes me feel filthy dirty. “Rick Rubin” is taken from Spank Rock’s debut, “YoYoYoYoYo”.

Get Lucky – New Young Pony Club
New Young Pony Club are a five-piece from London. Musically, think a young Debbie Harry fronting The Gang Of Four (my bass player Gail’s old band) and you’re almost half way there. “Get Lucky” took a little while to get its hooks in, but finally it did and now it seems that it was always nothing but impossibly infectious. Listen out for the priceless line: “Let your girlfriend do what your boyfriend can’t.” Great stuff.

Le Laboureur – Masanka Sankayi
This is mental. Frenetic playing that dares you to stay still. A bizarre hybrid of seemingly disparate parts that coalesce into a Congo-Zaire techno-trad. But, more importantly, there’s a thumb piano on it. Or a ‘Likembe’ as we professional thumb pianists know them. That’s enough for me, all I need to know. Used one many years ago on a track called “African Night Flight”. Can’t beat a thumb piano, or a nose flute come to that. Not the ear trumpet though, that’s not my kind of instrument. Hard to play.

I Thought I Saw – His Name Is Alive
I’m not proud to admit that I’ve somehow never really leant His Name Is Alive an ear. You know how it is; sometimes you think you have an idea of a band’s identity before you’ve ever even heard them. I know it’s lazy, but there’s really not enough time sometimes.

His Name Is Alive have been kicking around for yonks and if “I Thought I Saw” is typical of anything the band did for the years they were with 4AD, then I’ve been missing out. There’s an early 70s singer/songwriter vibe about “I Thought I Saw” and it comes on like Karen Carpenter singing with The Isley Brothers. Yea, THAT old hybrid.

Swans (Life After Death) – Islands
According to the review from Reckless Records, this: “Features guest appearances and influence from members of Arcade Fire & Wolf Parade.” Obviously I’m happy to confirm there certainly seems to be an AF influence on “Swans (Life After Death)”. “Swans” really wouldn’t have been a very sore thumb on “Funeral”… and Islands are from Montreal too.

This is the first work of Islands’ I’ve been made aware of and it’s a powerful nine and a half minute epic that kicks off with what sounds like a theramin but is probably a synth imitating a theramin. Always been a sucker for a theramin. Wonderfully evocative lyrics too. Try this: “Swans, Swans, Swans sung songs, Till the morning dawned on us, And the sun-smudged peach moon still hung loose.” I’m off to check out the Islands’ album, “Return to the Sea”.

Lithiummelodie 1 – Jan Jelinek
“Lithiummelodie 1” by Jan Jelinek is a strange and bewitching seven-minute wordless composition that slowly builds from a sparse industrial beginning to something far more organic and mesmerising. The track builds layer upon layer using samples that seem fairly unremarkable in themselves, but which culminate in a sonically rich piece with an energetic melody. I couldn’t resist scatting a vocal over “Lithiummelodie 1” as I listened, (well I am a singer that loves a little scat in the privacy of my own home) but it got away.

Boy From School – Hot Chip
As lovely as this is and I do like it a lot I have to say I think I prefer the recently reissued “Over And Over”. Apparently, the band reckon “Over And Over” is a celebration of “Repetition”… Well, thanks guys. Hopefully the recent Mercury Prize exposure in the UK will see them selling like Hot Chips. But hold on, I’ve changed my mind. I prefer “Boy From School” again. Oh, I don’t know. Get both.

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