While some vestiges of the ethereal presence of David Bowie linger in this cover of “As the World Falls Down,” Kevin Max’s cover breathes new life into a song that has been viewed some eleven million times on Youtube. The listener is immediately met by twin valets, voices who from the onset usher us into a new clearing, an outdoor space which is both familiar and unfamiliar.
Max’s own poetic sensibilities enable him to locate and incorporate silences and place contemplative wonder into the song through temporal echolocation, which simultaneously bend us back to the past and fling us into the future from the track’s central pulse. We find where we are in our lives not by where we’ve been or where we think we’re going, but by hovering in limbo in a state of virtual waiting where the result is unspoken. The hushed and simple instrumentation focuses attention on the vocals, which swell within the first seventy seconds to reveal how far we have already traveled away from the original by the time the first verse is finished. Max takes calculated risks to offer both the concrete and abstract: sturdy, hefty bravado tether us to our own philosophies and beliefs in order to convince us of our own safety and grounding while also soaring in the alternative voice, that channel that Bowie bent the antennae round for the world to hear, reveals room for us to doubt, love, and know loss–that is to be human. Max’s moments of flight take us up above the “sky” and the “moon”– those fixed compass demarcations–to reveal that the “pale jewel” is somehow something spiritual, some more intimate like “The Jewel” of a James Wright’s poem and something less pluralistic like the seventy-seventy sided jewel Rob Bell and others stole from Jewish midrash and repackaged as a Christian image.
At it’s best, during the refrain of “As the world falls down,” we are invited to get lost, to forget what year it is (how old was I when Labyrinth appeared?) and allow the stripped down questions to employ carefully placed explosives to free the listener from the heaviness of existential and/or theological weight. Max’s own homage to Bowie seems to beckon us to lean into the moonlight for a moment before withdrawing back into our own shadows.