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Bowie cover of the week: Shane James Bordas performs “Time Will Crawl”

I delayed the weekly “cover of the week” for a day so to post “Sunday” and reflect on 9/11 but I have a winner today, Shane James Bordas’ cover of one of Bowie’s most underrated songs, “Time Will Crawl.”

“Time Will Crawl” is an almost stereotypical Bowie song about a post-apocalyptic landscape. It’s a real rock song which, with minimal adjustments could have found a home on any number of earlier Bowie albums. Instead, it had the bad fortune of being nestled into Never Let Me Down, which had the twin characteristics of selling well, presumably because Bowie’s post Let’s Dance fans of his pop music, while being despised by the type of fans that were originally attracted to, say, Diamond Dogs. It was released as a single and a video and its not like nobody heard the song, but I don’t think it every really received its due.

I have come to appreciate all of Never Let Me Down more in recent years, in part because artists who had worked elsewhere with Bowie re-recorded the instrumentals and put out a far superior version in 2018 (using Bowie’s original vocals). Bowie was involved in developing a radical remix of this song in 2008 for iSelectBowie, which he also included on the 2014 compilation album, Nothing Has Changed. More importantly, it formed the foundation of the superior 2018 version of Never Let Me Down. The album was only released as part of a box set, which is too bad because it should be the standard version.

All this is to say that “Time Will Crawl” is ripe for reinterpretation, or at least resuscitation. Shane James Bordas does the latter here. It’s a somewhat faithful rendition but it doesn’t sound like an overproduced 80s pop song. This is apocalyptic rock and roll that’s too good to be forgotten.

Also, this is a real video, which in my mind always gives a leg up as a contender for “cover of the week.” One of the song’s main competitors was an electric violin version of “Starman” by a street performer named Holly May. Her performance is excellent and has the benefit of being odd— she’s a young woman playing “Starman” on the street with an electric violin. But there’s a lot of street noise, which I guess is a sign of the video’s authenticity, but it detracted from the music itself. Also, there was a beautiful version of “Heroes” by Melody Reine and two collaborators, but beautiful versions of “Heroes” are the most common Bowie covers. Finally, there’s a real video of “Star” by Notice. This one would have won had it not been for “Time Will Crawl.” I choose among videos that have been released within the past week. It’s just possible that “Star” will come in under the line next week due to the extra day, so it might get a second shot. But meanwhile, I really like the Bordas song this week.

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