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David Bowie -

"HEROES"

David Bowie

 

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3.96 | 201 ratings

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R-A-N-M-A
3 stars Heroes is my first attempt at a full David Bowie album. Like many millions of people the world over I'm a fan of his singles and his unconventional style. Heroes offers a particularly artistic side of Bowie which is apparent in his more well known work but never so completely expressed. Most people, myself included, would not associate him with instrumentals at all never mind almost an entire album side.

I picked Heroes because it comes as a part of the highly regarded Berlin Trilogy, but also because it isn't the more obvious choice of Ziggy Stardust. I wasn't trying to find Bowie at the height of his hit making powers, but rather in a rather more raw and experimental state. To that extent I am not disappointed, but not all experiments are ultimately successful and Heroes proves to be a fairly inconsistent album. There are so many influences at work disco, rock, jazz, German expressionist electronic, krautrock, Japanese traditional, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp and of course David Bowie's own theatrical flair. No matter the artist I don't think anything totally coherent could have come out of it. There are parts I love, parts I am indifferent towards and parts I will generally avoid.

The first side of the album is comprised of the more conventional, in a David Bowie sense, vocal tracks. There are some ok ones. Blackout and Joe the Lion aren't bad, it's probably the tracks where Robert Fripp's peculiar guitar style is most evident. Bowie comes in a bit erratic on them though. Beauty and the Beast's up beat disco tinged swagger is a pretty good way to kick off an album. I'm not at all fond of Sons of a Silent Age, it feels burned out and not in a sexy Rolling Stones kind of way.

As most of you can guess, the star of the first side of the album is the absolutely magnificent single Heroes. This is where Bowie's experimentation have yielded pure gold. It is a powerful and emotional song. When he really digs in his heals and belts out "I, I will be king... and You, You will be Queen" it's nearly enough to bring you to tears it's so uplifting. You know a song is good when everyone else wishes they wrote it. The Wikipedia entry for the song must list about 3 dozen covers. For me, it even surpasses the rest of his popular cannon including Ziggy Stardust and Space Oddity. It's a once in a career track.

Side two is the heavily Eno influenced portion of the album. All but one of the tracks are instrumental. The instrumentals themselves differ significantly from one to the next more than the vocal tracks do. My favourite of the bunch is the fuzzy but colourful name check V-2 Schneider. Its only flaw is its short length, but why spoil a good thing. Also very good is Sense of Doubt. If I didn't know this was from a David Bowie album, I'd have sworn it came straight off Phaedra or something. Moss Garden and Neukoln are instrumentals even further removed from the main stream. They don't do it for me personally. Moss Garden is the better of the two, but I have other better coma music in my collection. Neukoln is like incidental music to a film noir without the mystery or sex appeal.

Lastly is the awkwardly out of place Secret Life of Arabia. So much more could have been done with it. I've heard that Bowie even said he was phoning it in. Alas. There are other things about this album to like. No need to dwell on this particular short coming.

David Bowie is successful on this album as both a pop musician and an experimental music maker. It is easy to see why Heroes carries a lot of weight in his catalogue. It is not Bowie's best album but it certainly contains some of his best work. I look forward to taking a step back with Ziggy but also seeing what the rest of the trilogy has to offer. Heroes warrants 3 stars. I would recommend to pretty well everyone, with exception of die hard metal heads.

R-A-N-M-A | 3/5 |

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