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Bowie cover of the week: Spoon covers “I Can’t Give Everything Away”

Another very solid cover from what’s clearly a real band that I’ve never heard of. “I Can’t Give Everything Away” is great to cover because, as one of Bowie’s last songs, it hasn’t been covered much, so a band like Spoon has latitude in interpreting the song. I think its somewhat under-appreciated (I mean the Bowie version), having been overshadowed by Bowie’s death, as well as the more prominent songs from Blackstar, especially “Blackstar” and “Lazarus.” But it was actually the third single from the album, and as the final song on the album marks the closeout of Bowie’s body of work as he knew it. I actually think you can think of a continuity beginning with “Space Oddity” and ending with this song. Appropriately, Bowie closes up shop with a refrain that seems to carry meaning that might or might not have to do with the rest of the cryptic lyrics. What in the world did he mean by, “the post returns for prodigal songs, with blackout harks with flowered muse?” Is there some chance he’s making a reference to his song, “Blackout?” That’s the kind of thing Bowie was almost certainly conscious of, leaving a word for those of us who think about these things to assign meaning that probably isn’t there on its own. For everyone else, what stands out is the line that doubles as the song’s title. it sounds like its coming from Bowie himself— he’s done. He’s given us everything he can, but he can’t give everything away. He’s taking something with him, but its over.

Spoon betrays no hint that this is a Bowie song, or it’s about anything particular to Bowie. The arrangement is similar to Bowie’s, but the instrumentality is different (especially noticeable is the absence of a harmonica). The succeed in making it their own song, and in so doing underscore that on its own, it is far more impressionistic than it seems at the end of Blackstar.

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