Saturday 6 January 2018

David Bowie Never Had To

One of the most pleasing things I have noticed in the Scottish music scene over the last few weeks has been a little bit of recognition for Pii 2, the second album by Stephen Solo, an artist I am incredibly fond of.

Readers of Is This Music? (another blog with a nod to Teenage Fanclub) voted Pii 2 second best album of 2017, The Herald highlighted Internet Song in their top 100 (17) songs of 2017, while Jock Rock also found Pii 2 to be second best album of the year.

Nothing crazy, but I know that it means a lot to Solo, an artist who recorded his debut album simply because he had found out how to use his iPhone and didn't need to limit himself to acoustic demos.

Solo hasn't even played two handfuls of shows in that time, so word of mouth is the way that his music gets known.

I've blogged about Solo a few times over the last couple of years;

Introduction and interview
The Pii 2 album launch at La Chunky
Pii 2 album review

Stephen is unique, using easily accessible and relatively cheap modern technology (his iPhone) to capture the songs, melodies and ideas that pour out of him on a regular basis.

The songs range from the gorgeous fragile Crying Because, to cinematic Soundtrack to Unfilmed, to Albarn-esque moments of beauty mixed with craziness, plenty of Beatles-y moments of homemade psychedelic wonder like Think Strange and LocoCoco and nods to Bowie, the harmonies of The Beach Boys, electronica via Kraftwerk to Hot Chip and even Scots comedian Limmy.

His 2 albums to date contain genuinely jaw dropping moments of sheer raw talent and imagination. No Pill For What I've Got and Secrets You Keep are spine tingling. And it is worth remembering that Solo no only wrote and played everything on these 2 albums, he recorded, mixed and produced it all as well - sometimes in his car, sometimes under the stairs and sometimes in the bathroom - even in the bath! Internet Song is so funny, captivating and catchy that is has recently prompted one fan to make a video for it.

There is one song on Pii2 that I listened to about half a dozen times in a row on first listen to the album. The talent, humour, cheek, imagination, stark reality and heartfelt plea to the artist who inspired it, the twist at the end, the little riffs.... David Bowie Never Had To is a quite incredible song, in fact it is more of a work of art.

As Glasgow celebrates the life of Bowie this weekend ahead of his birthday and anniversary of his passing, I thought I'd highlight this song that the great artist inspired. Stephen is a real Bowie fan and introduced me to Bowie's 80's classics Modern Love and Lets Dance.

Back to the song, that you can stream below. Pulsing electro synth and beats back Stephen Solo as he lists things that David Bowie Never Had To do;

Change kitty litter at 5am
Take out the bona after a gig still wearing his gig clothes
Switch to store brand breakfast serial for financial reasons

Carry a washing machine up 4 flights of stairs
Downgrade his home entertainment package because he is on a zero hours contract
Consider using his house keys as a makeshift weapon at a dodgy bus stop
Provide evidence of job searching for a job he doesn't want

Solo breaks off between verses for a glorious melodic and melancholic snapshot of his mind;

Don't want my own universe
But I'd be happy in my own little world

There is a lovely twist at the end as Solo finds himself having a conversation with Bowie from beyond his grave. I'll leave you to check that out yourself. Please do so and please check Solo's albums. He plays the Hug and Pint supporting The Gracious Losers at their single launch and I'm led to believe some friends will be joining him on stage to help recreate his incredible songs.

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