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Bowie cover of the week: The Struts perform “Rebel Rebel”

As “cover of the week” has become a regular, weekly feature of this blog, I have kind of made up rules for what counts as a cover of the week that exist only in my own head. What I look for is a new video, with a preference for a video created by the artist rather than a bootleg. I tend to prefer covers of more obscure songs by less well-known but nonetheless professional bands.

For these reasons, there are two good videos I came across this week that I’m skipping over because they check none of the aforementioned boxes. The one was a newly posted video, which was really just the audio, of the band Poison covering “Suffragette City.” The biggest problem is that the recording was from a 2011 album. Not bad a bad performance, but it really wasn’t new. Similarly, there’s a reaction video by a guy named Harri Best listening to Norwegian singer Aurora perform “Life on Mars.” He’s blown away, almost to the point of tears listening to the song. I’m right there with him. But it’s the reaction video that’s new, not Aurora’s original performance (that said, it really is quite good and I will probably post her original video at some point).

That brings me to the Struts’ performance of “Rebel Rebel,” which wins the prestigious designation of “Cover of the Week.” I’m not exactly sure if this video is a very high quality bootleg or an official video. The Struts already have an official video of another live performance of this song on their web site (link to the site by hitting the bolder words). The video I’m posting, though, is of a very recent performance (7/23/23) and is therefore indisputably new.

It’s also very good. Most of the performance is pretty faithful to Bowie’s original, but the band improvises a bit to turn it into a call-and-response with the audience. “Rebel Rebel” is a real rock song, and the band deploys it well to create a real rock concert experience.

The Struts is a “real band” for sure. I think I’ve heard of them before, but I don’t have any of their albums or know any of their songs. Lead singer Luke Spiller looks like he could have stepped out of the Glam scene in 1972 and, at least on this song, the band as a whole achieves a Spiders from Mars vibe. So what we have here is a band that looks and sounds like it could have fit in well with the cutting edge music community of 50 years ago still sounds (and looks) fresh and rebellious. This has in part to do with the band’s energy and ability, but it also has in no small part to do with the eternal youthfulness of the song itself. I’m not sure that a performance in the early 70s of, say, an Al Jolson song (which would have been popular 50 years before that) would have had the same effect.

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