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Cover of the Week: dB — the Bowie Experience performs “Life on Mars”

In 2006 Bowie appeared on the comedy show, Extras, starring Ricky Gervais. At some point the two did an appearance where they talked about the show. In the episode, Gervais’s character encounters Bowie at a restaurant, inspiring Bowie to compose a song on the spot denigrating the lead character. It’s hilarious. Anyway, in discussing the episode, Gervais said that he had asked Bowie to compose an original song for the show, “like ‘Life on Mars,’” to which Bowie responded, “Oh, you want a ‘Life on Mars,’ eh?” Without saying it explicitly, Bowie acknowledged that within his catalogue of hundreds of songs, this one is uniquely special and un-replicable.

Beloved and universally considered a masterpiece, “Life on Mars” might well be Bowie’s most covered song among professional musicians. This does not seem to be the case amongst armatures (that distinction seems to belong to “Heroes”), and there’s a reason: it’s hard to play. DB- the Bowie Experience nails it.

Watch the video. But close your eyes at some point. This cover will sound like vocalist Mikael Esplund is singing along with the Bowie’s original instrumental track off Hunky Dory. These guys are that good. Esplund’s voice is distinct, but is very evocative of Bowie. Bowie’s own later performances of “Life on Mars” seem to me to adapt the song to his evolving voice, whereas Esplund takes it back to its origin as a blend of glam and the type of cabaret song that could have been a hit decades earlier.

DB is based in Sweden, so unless you’re in Europe you might have a tough time seeing them live, but if you have the chance, these guys really do a great job of summoning the spirt of Bowie and performing his songs the way you think of them.

So, this was an easy choice for “cover of the week,” but if you like this song, there’s more good news to come. I reached out to band-member Joakim Schiller who granted me an interview, which I’ll post along with another of the band’s Bowie covers on Saturday, February 24th. I plan to post a teaser on Friday featuring another of their songs, so if you like dB’s music, keep coming back.

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