Heroes

David Bowie

RCA Records, 1977

http://www.davidbowie.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/17/2008

Released only a few months after Bowie’s initial highly influential foray into the world of electronically tinged, experimental art-rock, Low, its follow up Heroes continues along a very similar path. Indeed, like its predecessor, the album’s first half consists of somewhat unusual sounding, but fairly standard issue, up-tempo rock songs, while the second half provides another excursion into mainly instrumental territory.

The regular songs, such as the opener “The Beauty And The Beast” and “Joe The Lion,” differ from those on Low in the sense that they sound more organic and less coldly detached, though I find the melodies to be on the bland side. Only some highly inventive guitar work and effects by King Crimson’s Robert Fripp redeems them, really.

Faring better is the epic title track, deservedly one of David Bowie’s most famous songs. Romantic and uplifting, an incredible moment of catharsis is reached at the midway point when Bowie’s vocals, Eno’s synths, and Fripp’s guitar soar in tandem to produce a grand, timeless classic.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Also of interest is the schizophrenic synth stomper, “Blackout,” which has a quite off-the-wall vocal performance by Bowie. A playful, mostly instrumental nod called “V2 Schneider” after Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk, one of Germany’s massively influential electronic music pioneers, kicks off the far more experimental half of the album, where conventional rock arrangements give way to an overwhelmingly synthesized approach.

For me, the highlight of the disc is the continuous three song instrumental suite “Sense Of Doubt,” “Moss Garden,” and “Neuköln.” Showing the true depths of his songwriting talent and versatility, Bowie dug deep to compose an utterly dark, dreary landscape filled with the grey, cold hopelessness of being on the frontlines of the Iron Curtain in West Berlin during the middle of the ideological Cold War between the West and East. Driven by a starkly foreboding piano line with windswept synths setting the backdrop, one could easily see “Sense Of Doubt” as the soundtrack for the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse.

“Moss Garden” provides a brief respite from the dire portrait presented before “Neuköln” returns us to the ominous, expressionistic theme expressed earlier in “Sense Of Doubt,” with some sensational saxophone playing by Bowie himself that will send chills up your spine, especially with its seemingly tearful cries of anguish at the end that possibly evoke the end of life itself.

Given the emotional power of that epic conclusion, it’s disappointing that instead of also being the ending of the album itself, Bowie decided to tack on a funky, danceable track, “The Secret Life Of Arabia,” which, despite being one of the better songs on the album, feels really out of place. The album definitely would have benefited by placing it near the beginning, but the beauty of the digital age is that the listener can program their own custom track sequence (even though in my case I tend to feel a sense of guilt for going against the intentions of the artist, who may have ordered the songs as such for specific reasons.)

Despite some weak moments, like all Bowie albums, Heroes nonetheless is one of his peaks as a creative force and is a must have for his fans.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.