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Divine Symmetry I 26 I KillerStar (Self-titled album, 2023)

KillerStar is an extraordinary band with an extraordinary debut album. The music is great, on its own, with no need to know anything else. But there are special toy surprises for Bowie fans. To begin with, the band’s name is an homage to Bowie– it’s taken from “New Killer Star,” the song off Bowie’s Reality (2023). Why would a band name itself after a Bowie song? The answer is not because it’s a cover band or a tribute band, but that co-founders Rob Fleming and James Sedge are joined by Bowie alumni from almost every era of Bowie’s career. They include Mike Garson on piano, Earl Slick and Mark Plati on guitar, Gail Ann Dorsey and Tim Lefebvre on bass, Emm Gryner on backing vocals, and Donny McCaslin on saxophone. Some of their playing is very distinctive; recognizable like a voice is recognizable. But there are also musical and lyrical Bowie-related Easter eggs in several of the songs.

The true fun part of listening to this album is just enjoying the music. I first heard a song from KillerStar last fall, but I only purchased the entire album earlier this year. I’ve been enjoying it more than any new album I’ve heard in quite a while. And you can stop right there and go with it.

But searching for the Bowie Easter eggs is fun, too, almost like a game. I found that once I began looking, I’d uncover Bowie references that might not have actually been intended. Bowie himself encouraged fans to assign their own meaning to songs: “sometimes the interpretations I’ve seen on some of the songs that I’ve written are a lot more interesting than the input that I put in.” Similarly, one of Brian Eno’s “oblique strategies” suggestions to Bowie was “honor thy error as a hidden intention.” I mention this because, in looking for Bowie clues in these songs, some of what I found was really my error. How do I know I saw references that aren’t really there? Well, I’ll get to that…

But this is what I mean:

The opening song, “Should Have Known,” begins, “I’m a killer star; I’m a movie star.” Well, I already explained the origin of the name and the term “killer star.” I am also reminded of Bowie’s “Blackstar,” in which he proclaims that he is a Blackstar but not a variety of other types of stars — he’s not a film star, a pop star, a marvel star or a white star. Musically, there’s also an unmistakable reference to “Absolute Beginners.”

Next is “Everybody Loves a Hero,” which reminds me of how Bowie’s “‘Heroes‘” is, along with “Space Oddity,” the most frequently covered song, at least when I search for Bowie covers on a weekly basis. Everybody loves … a good “‘Heroes'” cover. This song is most definitely not a cover, but there’s a musical reference to “Aladdin Sane” courtesy Mike Garson’s piano, as well as a line, “I’m not trying to be sane” that might or might not be intended to compliment the piano accent.

“Got Me All Wrong” includes the lines, “Falling (or is it, “feeling?) down on my knees; don’t know who to please.” The image that appears in my mind is a certain infamous image of Bowie and Mick Ronson, which I will link to HERE.

Go (Hold on Tight), mentions a “space man,” includes the term “God only knows” (though Bowie’s cover of The Beach Boys song is kinda infamous), has an “Ashes to Ashes” style “boing-boing” and asks the question, “is this the reality?” The reality reference might be a stretch, but the band took its name from a song off Bowie’s Reality, so…

Your A Chameleon” requires no further explanation.

Feel it” is next on the track list. It is the one song for which I can’t even stretch my imagination to make a Bowie connection. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t have one. Good song, though.

“Too Late” reminds me of the refrain from “Station to Station” (“it’s too late…)

Finally, “Falling Through” also doesn’t have an obvious Bowie reference but there’s kind of a “Lady Grinning Soul” feel to it.

Anyway, I’m laying this all out because, first, it’s like a game. Listen to ther album and see what you hear.

Second, some of what I guessed were intentional Bowie references were wrong! How do I know? Because the band’s lead singer and co-founder, Rob Fleming told me! And to find out more of what he said, come back Saturday for my exclusive video interview with Rob. But first, buy the album and enjoy it for yourself!

The Divine Symmetry series compares Bowie songs to other songs with some sort of similarity, intentional or otherwise. The term is borrowed from Bowie’s song, “Quicksand.”

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