David Bowie

ISO, 2002


REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


Heathen sort of picks up where Hours… left off in that it's a mature sounding record that reflects David Bowie's advancing age, though this time around there's more emphasis on the songs themselves rather than how they are presented. While there are many lush textures here, everything takes a far more subtle approach, making sure the spotlight is secured squarely on Bowie himself.

Luckily, his vocals are in great form. I have to say that's one area where he has steadily improved over his career – on just about on every album of his from the early 90s onwards, his voice sounds fantastic. The lower, more relaxed croon he developed is downright pleasing to the ear, whereas he sometimes just sounded annoying on his ‘70s output even despite its classic status. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There are a number of great melodies present on Heathen in what seems to be a conscious attempt to evoke, if not necessarily facsimile, the spacey atmosphere of his early ‘70s glam work. "Slip Away," for example, sounds like a Ziggy Stardust track, and "Slow Burn" has echoes of "Heroes" running through it. There are a couple of nifty covers of Pixies and Neil Young songs here, too.

Unfortunately, the disc loses steam rather dramatically after the first five songs. It's all good up until that point, but the endlessly mid-tempo, almost comatose (though pretty) vocal performance from Bowie really gets tedious and loses its appeal without the backing of any solid pop hooks. Bowie made the mistake of not mixing things up and the result is that the songs just start sounding too similar, upping the snooze factor significantly. A lot of the disc sounds great while you listen to it, but as soon as quite a few of the songs end, they vanish – they just don’t possess the necessary qualities to make them memorable.

And that's what it comes down to – Heathen is a solid, well-crafted album that is very pleasant to listen to, but not nearly as engaging as either of its immediate predecessors. Just when you thought Earthling had given him a second career wind with its youthful vitality just a few years earlier, David Bowie turned around and released the pleasant but dull effort of Heathen, which only made him sound like a tired old man.

Rating: C+

User Rating: A-


Are you kidding??? Easily one of his very best. It's dark and maybe a tad moody but it contains some of his best and most personal lyrics. I love it. A-.
This album is as moody as I've ever heard Bowie. It's dark and melancholy. He just keeps getting better.

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