[CD Review] Various Artists, 'Life Beyond Mars—Bowie Covered' (Rapster/!K7)

David Bowie undoubtedly has been through some ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. From Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane, from the Thin White Duke to an oddly mottled chameleon colored by post-industrial dissonance, Bowie and his personas have inspired many and outlasted far more. Now Rapster Records/!K7 strives to find out if Bowie's songs can weather their own changes, brought on by 13 diverse artists, including Au Revoir Simone, Heartbreak, Kelley Polar, Matthew Dear, Susumu Yokota, the Emperor Machine, Joakim & the Disco, and others.

Avoiding the glam-slathered Spiders From Mars period, this CD pulls from 1971's Hunky Dory, 1975's Young Americans, the Brian Eno-assisted late-'70s Berlin trilogy (Low, "Heroes," Lodger), 1984's Tonight, the 1986 soundtrack to Labyrinth, and even 2003's Reality. But for all the sound and vision in their original material, the majority of the interpreters on this collection play it too sincere when given leave to redirect the focus.

Having previously released 2006's Exit Music—Songs With Radio Heads, Rapster knows that a varied roster can bring out some surprisingly soulful facets. Even Bowie fans know what the right interpretation can achieve. Case in point: the unaccompanied poignancy of Seu Jorge's Portuguese covers for Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. But with these Bowie covers on Life Beyond Mars, everyone seems so determined to do the material justice that they do its free spirit little service, save for the polar opposites of Kelley Polar's bizarro Italo-disco take on "Magic Dance" and Richard Walters & Faultline's muted electroacoustic version of "Be My Wife," while certain other tracks prove more can potentially mean less.

Leo Minor goes liquid funk with "Ashes to Ashes," Zoos of Berlin presented by Carl Craig eye krautrock's metronome on "Looking for Water," and Matthew Dear transposes "Sound & Vision" to downcast and detuning synths. It all offsets, but never really sets off, the material. File this one under "Space Oddity"; there's only so much life on Mars.

 
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