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Bowie cover of the week: Sunken Screens performs “I’m Deranged”

Amidst a higher than average number of “Space Oddity” and “Heroes” covers this week (some of which were quite good), this video by Sunken Screens stands out. It has all the aspects of videos I like for this weekly feature— it’s a “real” video, meaning it was shot as a video and has production qualities. It’s a somewhat obscure song, and its performed well.

I can’t find much on this two-member band, which appears to be from Spain. The lead singer is Pepe Mallent and the guitarist is Honorio Barranco. Someone is playing violin somewhere, but we don’t see who in the video. Instead, we focus a on Mallent who is standing almost motionless, staring straight ahead, singing with his hands in his pockets. Barranco looms in the background, never drawing Mallent’s attention. The audio and visual recordings are excellent, but the video is layered with a kind of false interference, as if to suggest that perception is distorted for both the narrator and audience.

“I’m Deranged” is one of the many good songs from 1. Outside, and was used in the soundtrack of the movie, Lost Highway. I haven’t seen that movie in a while but recall thinking that the song was poorly placed and seemed to be part of a spate of songs from 1. Outside placed in movie soundtracks (notably, “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” in Seven and a variation of “I Have Not Been to Oxfordtown,” which was called, “I Have Not Been to Paradise,” performed by Zoë Poledouris in Starship Troopers).

Other than the refrain, the lyrics of this song are seemingly nonsensical. Bowie often uses obscure references, evocative rather than representational language, and words or phrases that sound like something but actually are something else. But his famous “cut up” technique also sometimes produced nonsense, which I think was meant to underscore the randomness and chaos of reality. I suspect here that there’s not much meaning to mine from the song’s literal words, other than that in the context of the narrator struggling with his own mental health, all of existence is chaos. It wouldn’t really follow if the song was from the perspective of someone who truly was deranged but able to clearly articulate his considered thoughts. But maybe I’m wrong— Bowie might have just buried his obscure references especially deep, or maybe I just haven’t spend enough time with the song.

There were several other good videos posted over the past week. My second choice was a cover of another somewhat obscure song, “After All,” by someone claiming to be David Jones (which was Bowie’s real name). The cover was terrific but the video simply consisted of some pictures of Bowie. There was also a pretty great cover of “Space Oddity” by former Bowie band-member Emm Gryner along with someone named Jim McGuinn (who did the singing) performed at what spared to be either a backyard party or a really intimate concert. Gryner’s piano playing and backup singing, as well as her interplay with the small audience were high quality, but clip is more a document of the performance than a piece of art created to be a video. And anyway, there are so many good performances of “Space Oddity” and “Heroes” that a cover will have to be really special to make “cover of the week.”

I also came across some older covers that I will post in coming days, but I’ll save what they are for when I post them…

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