It has been suggested that the one good thing about David Bowie’s death, the solitary crumb of comfort, is the thought of all the new Bowies who will hopefully emerge in his wake. With such intense global focus on his life and work, surely there will be a slew of young musicians sufficiently inspired to take up his mantle.
But a new Bowie doesn’t mean a skinny young dude with pale skin and a zigzag painted on his face making facsimiles of Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane. For all the shared experience of our communal grief these last few days, the whole point of Bowie was: do as I say, not as I do. The closest thing to a new Bowie in the past two decades wasn’t a white bloke from South London reactivating glam, it was probably Björk. In the past few years, his truest progeny, in terms of polymathery, progressive artistry and provocation? Perhaps Tyler, the Creator.
A new Bowie in 2016 might not even be working in music. But still, we wanted to find someone for today’s column who would in some way pay tribute to his transformative urges.
Transviolet are not by any stretch of the imagination the new Bowie, but it wouldn’t be difficult to argue that he has been one of their guiding lights. They don’t remotely sound like him, but it’s in that very gesture of defiance that we feel we are paying homage to the man.
Where Bowie was playful, Transviolet are sincere and serious. “We are interested in challenging the status quo, and inspiring conversations that will help us overcome our differences,” they say. “Too many times we let characteristics define and, ultimately, divide us. We are not the colour of our skin or the amount of money we have in the bank. We are not our gender or our sexual orientation. We are all humans in need of love, respect, and acceptance. Everything else is a detail. That’s what the song New Bohemia is about. It’s taking a step outside of your personal bubble and looking at the world from an outsider’s perspective.”How Bowie is that? New Bohemia will doubtless be a Rebel Rebel to the band’s young fans, just as Halsey’s New Americana is to her acolytes. It’s a call to arms, their attempt at a rallying cry and kiss-off to a previous generation: “Look out, you rock’n’rollers,” indeed. It’s rousing, with just enough of a patina of resistance about it (“We start a revolution”) to make its audience feel different and special. On Girls Your Age, Sarah McTaggart sings: “I’ve got a renegade heart.” Slow, synthy, it builds to a shimmering pop climax and stays there for 60 quietly convulsive seconds.
Night Vision, the new single, is also slow, a move as counterintuitive as Miley circa We Can’t Stop. “Get on your knees and praise me like you should,” it goes, channelling the fervour of Ziggy if not the leper-messiah strangeness. McTaggart sings about having “the world on my shoulders”. They have illusions of grandeur – but you should when you’re young. Bowie did. Bloodstream is also synthy, anthemic, with shades of Lorde.
Let’s not rewrite history: Jean Genie and Suffragette City didn’t effect a musical break with tradition; rather they offered a souped-up blend of Detroit rock and glam pop. Transviolet are in tune with the times and with what’s already out there, offering their twist on things, even if, as they declare in the line “Outlaw love make me lose control”, there is an affinity with the alienated at every turn. It might not be a case of meet the new Bowie, but we do feel confident in urging you to meet a new Bowie.