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This album is the most "Berlin oriented" of the whole trilogy. Fully recorded on site. A famous guest guitarist will come over for one day and record all his parts. Mr. Robert Fripp himself! So, now we have both Fripp and Eno on a single album. Not too bad, right?

This album is almost a commercial failure in the US (not reaching the top thirty) but it was well received in the UK (Nr. 3). One of the RCA executive (Stephen Weltman) will find the best words to promote the album: "There is new wave, there is old wave, and there is Bowie".

Some reminiscence of prior albums are noticeable on "Heroes". "Black Out" for instance which reflects the daunting New York black out which left the city in the dark for almost twenty-four hours in July 1977.

The best song of this album is without any doubt the title track. A love story, which is very rare during Bowie's career (the previous one being "Letter To Hermione" on his second album ("David Bowie/Space Oddity).

"I can remember, Standing by the wall. And the guns shot above our heads. And we kissed as though nothing could fall. And the shame was on the other side"

My second fave from this album is the oppressive "Sense Of Doubt". A wonderful replica of "Subterraneans" from "Low". A wonderfully icy mood extricates itself from it. A highlight simply based on a few and repetitive notes but again so desperate, so emotional, so moving.

It flows nicely into the ambient "Moss Garden" during which David is playing a Japanese traditional instrument (the koto). A tranquil piece of music, a fine transition to another highlight and again, very much "Subterraneans" oriented song. The magnificent "Neuköln". The final sax part is incredibly sad and touching. A desperate call. Wonderful.

The closing number is a more traditional Bowie song. "The Secret Life of Arabia" could have sit on "Station To Station". Bowie said afterwards, that this last song was a filler. Maybe because it breaks the global mood of the album.

This album doesn't have the same taste than "Low". I was disappointed at the time of release and I still have a mixed bag feeling about it. Definitely a good album, on the edge of three/four stars. Seven out of ten, if I could. But I'll upgrade it.

Report this review (#174864)
Posted Sunday, June 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars The second of the Berlin trilogy, and in my opinion better than its predecessor 'Low', Heroes sees Bowie taking his recently discovered electronic soundscapes into new and overall darker territory. Brian Eno's influence is seen more strongly on this album, and good old Bob Fripp takes lead guitar duties, perfectly complementing Alomar's less frantic style.

'Beauty and the Beast' is a brilliant opener, being a darker-than-most pop song. Although it performed poorly on the charts, it performs brilliantly here. 'Joe the Lion' is a very disjointed track, with Bowie's vocals portraying the title-character excellently. 'Heroes', of course, is the star here. A love song, at least on the surface, it soars, with its beautifully penned lyrics and unique production, making it an absolute highlight of Bowie's career. 'Sons of the Silent Age' is dark and brooding, perfectly structured with the pre- chorus providing contrast with the chorus proper, creating a tune of real character. The lyrics are also haunting. 'Blackout' is a real gem. Totally schizophrenic, it twists and turns through sections bordering an chaotic noise, to melodic refrains. All in little under four minutes. The instumentals start now, although 'V-2 Schneider' is not strictly instrumental. This song is pure kraftwerk-inspired electronica, with the only lyrics being a repeated refrain of the song's title. 'Sense of Doubt' pictures a dark and brooding landscape of sounds, achieved in very few notes. Minimalsim is the key to that piece. 'Moss Garden' is a meditative piece of more uplifting beauty, perhaps the very definition of ambient music. The final instrumental is the minimalistic jazz piece called 'Neukoln'. David plays sax himself here, very ably, as he did on the song 'Subterraneans off the Low album. 'The Secret Life of Arabia' closes the album somewhat strangely. I'm not sure if another vocal piece was necessary, and this vaguely Eastern-flavoured pop song seems like it was just added to the end of the album without any forethought. Nevertheless it is far from bad tune.

Heroes easily sits amongst my favourite Bowie albums, and out of the one's I know is the most atmospheric. Progressive, but not Prog.

Fans of electronic prog should love this. Five Stars.

Report this review (#175846)
Posted Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If "Low" had taken some fans and music critics by surprise, "Heroes" had the advantage of building up on that same surprise and display an elaborated approach to the new musical pursuits traced by David Bowie in communion with Brian Eno. The "Heroes" album, when compared to "Low", features a more robust and fuller approach to the rocking numbers, as well as a less deep approach to the ambient- oriented compositions. It is, in few words, a bit more architectonical and a bit less varied regarding textures, but all in all, a logical continuation of the sonic framework pursed in "Low" without reaching for formula repetition. The opener and track 2, 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Joe the Lion', very much instill stamina and good vibrations with a reasonable portion of neurotic energy: the use of a female chorale helps to introduce a certain R'n'B vibe into them, in this way exploring the celebratory side of rock'n'roll and perpetuating the glam standards that Bowie never really got rid of in the 70s throughout his musical reinventions. The title track is one of the most distinctive Bowie anthems ever: the solid riffs, Fripp's soaring guitar leads that cut through the air with hopeless melancholy, the subtle harmonic adornments, all of them are conjured to express the immense sadness of two lovers separated by political tragic, pointless circumstances (in this particular case, the Berlin Wall). This is a real gem of rock's history, so nothing that I can say about 'Heroes' in this review can really add anything new. But if I can say anything meaningful here, I will say that it is great and majestic like only Bowie at his best can be. Another majestic track is 'Sons of the Silent Age', whose sense of drama is even more oppressive (if not as majestic) than the previous song: the sad melodies are treated in a way that the overall sound feels really claustrophobic. 'Blackout' reinstates the rocking vibe of tracks 1 and 2, but with a more aggressive attitude and a bigger sense of tension regarding the instrumental elaboration. This is the sort of thing that I found missing most of the rockers included in "Low". The album's second half is mostly devoted to the sort of instrumental explorations that had made the best of the legendary "Low": in "Heroes", they also work as especially valuable items, although they fail to match that deep eeriness of the "Low" counterparts. 'V-2 Schneider' is a high-spirited homage to the rock side of krautrock, sounding pretty much in the mould of Neu!, despite the fact that it was written as a thankful tribute to Kraftwerk (Bowie was mentioned in the electronic classic 'Trans-Europe Express' one year before). After this uplifting piece comes a trilogy of exercises on introspective ambiences. 'Sense of Doubt' delivers a manifestation of doom through the caustic grave piano chord and unearthly synth layers. 'Moss Garden' sounds like something out of a Vangelis' album recycled reshaped by the people of Cluster: the sonic dewdrops incarnated on the koto's strings and the liquid allusions played on synth work out their intended meditative mood. Meditation goes and sadness comes in the mysteriously disturbing 'Neuköln', which in many ways recaptures the yearning unease of 'Subterraneans' (from "Low") - as always, Bowie's sax lines fill the air in a robust fashion. The albums is closed down by the catchy 'The Secret Life of Arabia', which states a weird yet appealing mixture of exotic Eastern and Latin-jazz over a solid funky-rock pace. When the fade-out arrives, I usually regret that this track isn't a bit longer, but I equally feel thankful for the introduction of an ethereal wall of sound during the repetitive instrumental interlude. With "Heroes", David Bowie gives us yet another excellent opus that deserves a mandatory place in any good art-rock collection.
Report this review (#179269)
Posted Saturday, August 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Heroes is David Bowie's second release of the Berlin Trilogy. This trilogy was based on Bowie's interest in the krautrock scene and he wanted to be a part of it. On this record there are no krautrockmusicians available, but on the second half there are some krautrock inspired tracks. This collaberation with Brian Eno (Roxy Music, solo) and Robert Fripp (King Crimson, solo) contains some nice songs, like the titlesong Heroes, Joe the Lion and Sons of the Silent Age. I do especially like the outcry:"baby I will never let you go. All I see is all I know..." with that nice saxophone solo after it.

The first half contains short experimental sounding songs, which have in common a thick sound with some experimental guitarplay (what else shoulde we expect from Fripp?). This is the better half of the record in my opinion, because of it's catchyness and good vocals of Bowie.

The second half is mostly filled with spacy atmospheres a bit like in krautrock. Here Bowie sounds less convincing: the spacy atmosphere played by krautrock giant's like Can, Faust, Guru Guru, early Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze and many others was much better. Well, I guess I'm not convinced at all by the synthesizer sounds and keyboards played by Brian Eno. The koto playing by Bowie is not that excellent either: a nice experiment, but a failed experiment in my opinion.

The first side is worth four stars, the second side three. 3,5 in total.

Report this review (#185560)
Posted Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars The recent release of Bowie's comeback album "The Next Day" inspired me to do some reviews on his older work, specifically his seventies albums. Although Bowie has made decent albums in every decade since the sixties, his seventies work remains the pinnacle that gave Bowie the legendary status he's had since. When "Heroes" was released in 1977 I was 17 and still discovering what music suited me best. I had heard a lot of good reports and comments about "Heroes" from my friends and in the media (internet was yet a far cry). So I gave it a try in the record shop (in those days they had special cabins in shops with headphones, so you could listen to an album before bying it) and decided to buy it. It was not like anything I had heard before. Side A consisted of mainly rhythm driven songs without a clear melody, except maybe for "Sons of the silent age". The title track was up in the charts and this album contained the extended or original long version, which was in my view way better than the single version. Side B was filled with instrumentals, except for "The secret life of Arabia" and for the sparse vocals in "V2-Schneider". The (semi-) instrumentals were clearly inspired by krautrock. The cold war Berlin atmosphere clearly had its impact on the writing and recording. The album showed Bowie's versatility in writing and performing skills. The singing, the saxofone on "Neukolln", the song structures. It proved once again his penchant for unpredictability and exploring new directions in music. The album completely blew me away and, as often with first buys, at least im my case, has remained my favorite Bowie album up to now. The collaboration of Bowie, Eno ánd Fripp, three of my alltime musical "Heroes" (hence the title?) was to good to be true. But is wás true and it wás good! Progressive? Absolutely! A masterpiece.
Report this review (#190230)
Posted Sunday, November 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars Let me preface this review by stating that I'm not much of a Bowie fan. I received this disk as a promo, and kept it because of the appearance of Robert Fripp & Brian Eno. I never believed Bowie was a trendsetter, but more like a revivalist, seeming to take a musical style a few years after it was popular, and make it his own.

That said, this album has a few nice pop tunes, that often to me sound like glam with a disco beat, and a new-agey interlude near the end. And while you can hear Eno voice here and there throughout the album, Fripp, other than the sustained notes on the title track, seems to blend into the background.

Three stars musically, but only one or two for prog.

Report this review (#215262)
Posted Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Secon "Berlin Trilogy"step is for sure better, than the "Low ". Main difference - this album is much more focused, now it's album, not the collection of Eno dark ambient pieces with some Bowie vocals.

I think important role there got Robert Fripp with his guitar. Yes, you have there both dark ambient/sounscapes masters, Eno and Fripp, and happily they balanced each other much better!

I can say, that on that album I can hear mature "Berlin trilogy"sound, the ideas,which were represented on "Low "in blueprint forms only. It still very dark ambient - oriented, but more structurised songs gave to all album well-finished product feeling.

Now, you can like it or not, but at least it is some way in music of it time. I can't agree with some reviewers, who tryied to name the music of this album "new wave". No way!

For sure, because of strong influence of Eno (who was one of persons who builded the sound of such"new wave" leaders as "Ultarvox"), there are some sound similarities. But the song structure and construction is much more deep and innovative.In fact, you have here the mix of ambient sound of Eno earlier solo albums, fashionable "new wave "atributes and Bowie's glam rock.

I can really recommend this album for anyone who is interested in Bowie's "Berlin period ".

Report this review (#237871)
Posted Monday, September 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars "HEROES" is one of those albums that just carry you along; its sweep is relentless. It may take you a couple of spins before you get into its spirit, though, since much of the original A-side emits an atmosphere of panic and confusion. If the A-side of its predecessor, LOW, sounded neat, symmetrical and depressed, typical "HEROES" tracks like "Blackout" and "Joe the Lion" are full of tension and fear. It is well known that Bowie recorded this album from the base up, i.e. he first recorded all the instruments; he then went back to the studio and more or less improvised the vocals. It may be for this reason that the album sounds so spontaneous and wild, and that most of the lyrics sound incoherent! The album's dark and experimental mood had a considerable influence on New Wave bands like XTC and Wire, as did Iggy Pop's LUST FOR LIFE and THE IDIOT, to which Bowie contributed.

There's not a single uninspired track on the A-side - something that distinguishes "HEROES" from its lacklustre successor LODGER. Most people, of course, will be familiar with the glorious title track, which can be found smack-dab in the middle of the side. Throughout the years I've had to cope, first with a girlfriend who thought the live version on STAGE sounded superior (it does not) just because she owned a copy of STAGE, and now with three daughters who think nothing can beat Ewan McGregor's performance in MOULIN ROUGE! I'd like to think "Heroes" is one of those tracks nothing will destroy. I heard Nico do her live version in the early eighties, and there was no climax worth speaking of but it was still a great song.

The album's B-side has to be just about the proggiest sequence of music Bowie ever recorded, with its explicit homage to Krautrock bands like Neu and Kraftwerk, and with various electronic keyboards producing loads of nicely floating sounds! "Moss Garden" was probably meant to evoke gardens Bowie visited in Kyoto, and I must say Bowie uses the Japanese koto in a highly imaginative way. For an artist who tends to leave solos to various members of his band, he expresses himself very eloquently, movingly even. The album closer, "The Secret Life of Arabia", is a hoot. Out of the darkness, into the light, as Indonesian proggers Discus would have it.

"HEROES" is one of the indisputable highlights of the Bowie canon. Of all of his albums it's the only one that is indisputably "a masterpiece of progressive rock". Bowie has taken on styles first developed by renowned progressive musicians like Eno and Can, he has succeeded in giving them a twist of his own, and he has made excellent use of some of prog's most original artists (Robert Fripp, Eno himself) in the process. Five stars may sound like an underestimate.

Report this review (#266079)
Posted Sunday, February 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Bowie's Heroes is one of those rock classics where it keeps surprising me why they are considered anything special. I fail to see it as anything more then an average album with the name of well known artist on the cover and blessed with the luck to be released at a perfect moment. As to its quality, I can't say much positive at all. This is one of those albums you would even try to play backwards to make sure you didn't miss anything. Nope.

As it often goes with Bowie, his hits are his best songs. And so fares this album, the moment of excellent is the title track, a very fine pop song indeed. Not in the least due to the surprising flippertronics arrangement from mr. Fripp. Apart from that track, there's the pleasant rocking opener Beauty And The Beast and a couple of sonic Eno-isms on the second side that are listenable. Unfortunately, most of the tracks are bland rock songs that are dressed up to sound artsy and smart but end up contrived and self-important. The worst are Sons of the Silent Age, Blackout and V-2 Schneider. I would list those amongst the dullest and most conceited of Bowie's career.

I've given this album multiple tries over the course of my life but it has always failed on all accounts. It doesn't impress me as an art-rock album nor as a regular pop album. That one hit not withstanding; I'm really clueless as to why this album should feature in anyone's collection. I'd like to give 3 stars but really wouldn't see why. The man has much better music.

Report this review (#275929)
Posted Friday, April 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars It took me about two listens to decide that this was going to be my favorite Bowie album for the rest of time. This is the second entry in Bowie's late-70's collaboration with Brian Eno, and for whatever it may have in common with Low and for whatever may be an advancement in the production and general approach, the biggest thing that sets this album apart from Low for me is that it actually has classics. Whereas Low simmered at a solidly very good level without contributing (in my opinion) a single all-time great Bowie track, this album maintains the same baseline quality at worst while throwing out peaks repeatedly. Eno and Bowie brought out the best in each other with this album, and when the contributions of Robert Fripp (in his first recording appearance since he'd temporarily decided to abandon the music industry and find life meaning in The Fourth Way, a system of spiritual thought taught by a man named Gurdjieff) are accounted for, it's pretty much impossible for me not to love this album more than anything else with Bowie's name on it.

As with Low, this is an album that sounds to me like the color scheme of the album cover. Yup, if you can possibly understand the idea of sounds having color associated with them, then you should know that while the majority of Low sounds like orange and brown and various light human skin tones to me, "Heroes" is all about striking, powerful mixes of black, white and grey to me. This probably wouldn't sound like a compliment to many people, since it would seem that color would indicate a more vibrant and lively approach than would lack of it. For me, though, the concept works in the album's favor not only because of how the instrumental textures paint images in my mind (the entire album sounds like a classy stylized black-and-white Japanese-style cartoon to me), but because stripping away color works as a strong metaphor for stripping away all of the various trappings that served to mask David's humanity in so much of his career. Even in the liner notes, where there is some color in the images shown of David, the addition of color is very soft and muted, only meant to enhance and emphasize what's already there rather than replace it with a big song and dance, so to speak. Even in many of the rather obscure and abstract portions of the album, I can feel David's soul in the music (though to be fair, much of that might also be Eno's soul; the division between the two here is definitely not cut and dried on this album), and David's soul is definitely not something heard on a regular basis.

As on Low, the album is roughly distributed with the "normal" material on the first side and the "difficult" material on the second side, though as on Low this description isn't exact; the first side of Low wasn't exactly filled with "normal" songs (not to mention the presence of two instrumentals on that side), while the second side here ends with a track that could hardly be dismissed as "difficult." Still, while the two albums aren't exactly clones of each other, there is enough similarity in the general shape of the respective albums that it's easy to justify comparisons between the two. In this spirit, I have no problem saying the following: both the "normal" material on "Heroes" and the "difficult" material on "Heroes" are significantly superior to their respective counterparts on Low, and Low wasn't really a slouch in either. Of the six conventional songs on the album, only "Sons of the Silent Age" is even close to "average," and I still enjoy it quite a bit. The music in the verses isn't especially interesting, but the decision to make the secondary melody/chorus section such an over-the-top self-parody of Bowie's 1975 plastic soul era makes me laugh inside every time I think about it. "Blackout" and the closer, "The Secret Life of Arabia," are often overlooked as well, but they really shouldn't be; the former has a fascinating combination of driving beat, ugly guitar/synth squeals and frantic vocals that makes it unforgettable, and the latter (co-written with Carlos Alomar) is such a funny bit of pseudo-exotic disco (coming out of the final moments of the "serious" portion of the album, no less) that it's impossible for me to dislike it even remotely. It's nice to have a track like this, in this spot, where Bowie messing with his listeners seems less like him trying to latch onto some contemporary gimmick and seems more like him playing a genuinely funny gag on their expectations. It's nothing fantastic, but I couldn't imagine the album ending without it.

The other three "normal" songs are ones that seemingly most people enjoy, not surprisingly. Among the world of tracks that one can theoretically dance to, "Beauty and the Beast" has to be one of the ugliest and least pleasant, and I mean that in a very nice way. Everything about the song exudes sheer power, from the opening epic buildup, to the pounding beat (if this isn't proto-techno I don't know what is), to the jarring vocals (both from Bowie and from what I can only assume are female backing vocalists, who make the song bear an unmistakable krautrock influence), to the unpleasant yet irresistable guitar playing from Fripp, to the hilarious lyrics. Years ago, when I put together a 1-CD compilation of material from Eno's solo projects and albums where he'd made significant contributions, this seemed like the only logical choice for an opener, and I still can't think of a better one. Meanwhile, the following "Joe the Lion" stakes its claim as a peak within about five seconds, thanks to Fripp bringing out a MONSTROUS guitar tone for a MONSTROUS guitar line, but the song would still be great even without that portion. Fripp's guitar playing in the rest of the track is just as interesting (if not as immediately striking) as in the opening, and the alternation between Bowie's screamy vocal approach in the verses and the way he sings the "By God it's Monday, slither down the greasy pipe ..." is something I could just listen to over and over without getting tired. Yup, for a mere 3:05, "Joe the Lion" packs a mighty punch.

The big classic of the album, though, pretty much has to be the title track. I can see where one might want to dismiss it; it's gotten an obscene amount of exposure over the years, and it's such a big song with such a big sound and a big vocal performance that one could easily see it as tacky and overdone (like I often see other Bowie ballads). Whatever may be, though, the song has never once pushed any of my cynicism buttons, and I can't see how it ever will. Bowie writes a great story with these lyrics, and if this great vocal performance (the best of his career) isn't dripping with actual, sincere emotion, then the only conclusion I can draw is that Bowie really had absolutely no emotion in him whatsoever. The music, meanwhile, simply couldn't have happened in any combination other than Bowie, Eno and Fripp coming together. The melody and basic pattern of the song came from Eno and Bowie feeding off each other; the sound, produced by Visconti and Bowie or not, is saturated with various Eno production tricks; and, of course, there's Fripp's playing. Fripp and Eno might have collaborated previously to create bizarre (and often borderline unlistenable) guitar/synth experiments, but Fripp's guitar had also been responsible for some of the most interesting and often gorgeous (in a fully non-cliched manner) moments of Eno's solo albums (not to mention some of Fripp's more beautiful moments in other contexts, most notably in King Crimson but also in other places like the end of "A Plague of Lifehouse Keepers"). Another guitarist might not have had the, um, discipline to play so few notes and hold those notes out so long, and another guitarist might not have picked a tone so strangely alien and yet so instinctually familiar and so beautiful. Yup, this is pretty much as good as any track on a Bowie album could get.

Of course, even people who like the "normal" half of the album tend to lose the plot in the instrumental portion of the album, but I'll have none of that. One thing that is essential with these four tracks is to listen to and absorb them as a set: the opening "V-2 Schneider" can mostly work on its own, yes, but it's even more striking when paired with the completely different "Sense of Doubt," and the other two definitely work better as the conclusion of the first two. As with the second side of Low, if you hate ambient music, you'll probably dismiss these tracks without a second thought, but it would be your loss to do so. And frankly, what kind of fool would turn away from the greatness of "V-2 Schneider" just because the only words in the track are a repetition of the title in the last minute or so? As much as I love ""Heroes,"" this is only a smidge behind it, and if I had ever had the chance to attend a Bowie concert and hear the first notes of this track, I would have gone nuts. Aside from an absolute winner of a bassline, it's full of chord changes that don't quite happen on the beat you'd expect, saxophone parts that are similarly slightly off-kilter, and guitar sounds that evoke the image of a rocket or missle without any difficulty whatsoever, and anybody who's not won over by the time the vocals come in will never like instrumental music.

The following "Sense of Doubt" is credited solely to Bowie, but that's a misnomer; the track works because of conflicting instructions Bowie and Eno received from Eno's Oblique Strategies deck, so Eno really deserves credit as much as Bowie does here. There's a main theme of a low-pitched descending series of three notes, covered in synths and other noises (especially creaking Bowie vocal sounds) that make me picture a terrible black-and- white nightmare of seeing a city after it's gotten a nuclear weapon dropped into it (why that image? Well, why not that image?). One part in the track kills me every time I hear it: the single swelling synth chord that starts playing at 1:44 and is held for 11 seconds before finally dropping down a step and going into a melody of sorts. After "Sense of Doubt" ends on a relatively optimistic/triumphant note (at least, as much as this track allows), in comes "Moss Garden" (with a formal credit to Eno), featuring Bowie on a koto with stately atmospheric guitar and synth textures, and finally we have "Neuköln," a song about a district in West Berlin that the synths and the wailing saxophone make sound like a pretty desolate place. I'll admit that the suite isn't 100% gripping in every moment from start to finish, but as a whole it's fantastic, and yes, I included the whole suite on the "Eno and Friends" compilation I mentioned earlier.

If you're a Bowie fan who doesn't like this, I'd definitely be pretty surprised. If you're an Eno fan who doesn't like this, I'd be flabbergasted. Either way, it's one of the biggest "must own" recommendations I can give for any album from the late 70's.

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Posted Saturday, September 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's Only Roquairol (but I'm Not Sure I like It)

I first heard some tracks from this album while watching the harrowing but redemptive movie Christiane F. in a Glasgow cinema. The film loves it's neon Gothic sense of anguish just a little too much for its own good, and perhaps director Uli Edel and Bowie both share a nostalgia for Berlin that says more about their own romanticised vision of a dissolute Rimbaud kissing his young bride in her bloodied wedding dress torn by barbed wire, than it does about the city itself. In this dystopian paradise created by Baudelaire and nurtured by the likes of Patti Smith, Heroes producer Tony Visconti never married Mary Hopkins, Fripp never fell in love with Toyah Wilcox, Phillip Glass never composed a minimalist adaptation called the Heroes Symphony and Bowie never duetted with Bing Crosby or wrote the Laughing Gnome. Reality sucks, hence Art.

Beauty and the Beast - menacing textures threaten to engulf this track completely but you always suspect that Bowie was, is and always will be in complete control of every facet of his artistic environment. Like all his emotional outpourings, this rage is stage managed with one eye firmly fixed on the spiky competition gazing adoringly from beyond the footlights. Despite an unnerving surface of neurotic piano, Eno's protesting synths, nomadic guitar, scalding bass and hammy histrionics we have at source, a very ordinary tub thumping rawker being bludgeoned into what Bowie's fanboys always tell us is the shape of things to come. For those of you at all receptive to the insights gleaned from vacuuming your vast wealth up your nostrils, this is the place to start. Welcome to my nightmare - to hell and back (in business class with air miles)

I wanted to believe me, I wanted to be good, I wanted no distractions like every good boy should (My My !) nothing will corrupt us, nothing will compete, thank God heaven left us standing on our feet

Joe the Lion - Inspired by performance artist Chris Burden (who not only suffered for his art but nailed himself to a Volkswagen and had an assistant shoot him in the arm) this is one of my favourite Bowie songs ever. The guitars are wound up to poultice level urgency here and the latent whiplash threatens to slice your woofers and tweeters to ribbons. Fripp's contribution to the creation of such a visceral texture is crucial, and it is astonishing to learn that all his parts on Heroes were recorded in just a single session on the same day. Such spontaneity carries over into the song's imagery which is alternately desolate, nihilistic and desperate as befitting those who find themselves completely numb to the sensations hitherto anticipated with mundane reality. Bowie's lyrics were allegedly improvised at the microphone, which lends them a spontaneous 'stream of consciousness' flavour:

You get up and sleep, the wind blows on your cheek, the day laughs in your face, I guess you'll buy a gun, you'll buy it second hand and you'll get up and sleep

Heroes - has quite rightly become one of Rock's flagship songs to be mentioned in the same breath as Love Will Tear Us Apart, Imagine, Bohemian Rhapsody, Good Vibrations, Can't Explain (the list goes on thankfully) Despite my resistance to what his fans identify as 'passion' but I discern as an invisible theatrical prop, Bowie's emotion is certainly audible and it would be churlish to pick holes in a creation as enduringly thrilling as this one. For those who have never set a tremulous tootsie inside the world of Progressive Rock and claim to have never heard Mr Fripp...they're lying.

I can remember standing by the wall and the guns shot above our heads and we kissed as though nothing could fall and the shame was on the other side Oh we can beat them for ever and ever then we could be heroes just for one day

Sons of the Silent Age - Kicks off in a deliciously middle eastern tonality burnished by slithering sax (on which the Psychedelic Furs based a career) which retreats to uncloak a languid verse where David appears to outline the gestation of the Nazi regime?

Stand on platforms, blank looks and note books sit in back rows of city limits Lay in bed coming and going on easy terms, sons of the silent age pace their rooms like a cell's dimensions rise for a year or two then make war

The subsequent chorus contradicts this mood completely by being almost an ironic or self-conscious throwback to something that would have appeared on the equally spiffy Hunky Dory from 1971:

Baby I'll never let you go, All I see is all I know

A very fine track that will reward the discerning listener on repeated visits such are the many layered details and subtlety woven into this unique designer garment.

Blackout - Almost prefaces the industrial revolution as subsequently developed by NIN, Cabaret Voltaire, PIL etc and kudos to David and producer Visconti for their prescience. A dark and exhilarating slice of schizophrenia that has kept its less talented imitators off the dole queues ever since. The disorienting backing vocals are a feature of the whole album and they often appear to mimic very convincingly the dissociation inherent in audible hallucinations. The narrative may be construed as either another glimpse into the Thin White Duke's 'slimming sherbet' catharsis or his real and actual collapse and hospitalisation at around this time:

Too high a price to drink rotting wine from your hands Your fearful hands, get me to a doctor's I've been told Someone's back in town the chips are down I just cut and blackout

V2 Schneider - Bowie's mutual love affair with Kraftwerk is well documented and as borderline silly and kitsch as this is, it becomes quite simply plain vanilla irresistible. If you record an album in a studio that was once a dance hall frequented by members of the Gestapo then this is possibly the only healthy fruit of that association. Lovely phaser effect is applied to the chanted title 'hook', the only singing there is on this track.

Sense of Doubt/Moss Garden/Neukoln - the gravitas imbued in the descending piano motif is powerful enough but this monochrome Gothic ambient fog ain't really my brand of air freshener readers. Fans of Eno, John Foxx and the Aphex Twin may require sedation/restraint during these instrumental portions of Heroes but whenever I hear a koto or the words 'Oblique Strategies', I run for the isolation tank. That this seamless trio was hugely influential for later developments in electronic music is beyond debate but if you don't like eggs, then not even a state of the art omelette is gonna convince you otherwise.

The Secret Life of Arabia - This must be one of the most stylistically bipolar albums I've encountered in a real long time. We finish up with a disco/funk/blue eyed soul 'groove thang y'all' that might be a not so distant freckled cousin to Young Americans Transparently tongue in cheek but none the more enjoyable for all that. If Chic had been white....

Yep, a real mixed bag of all-sorts, some of which will delight and others will horrify depending on your orientation. I've always been struck by the mirrored artwork on Heroes with that of Iggy Pop's The Idiot both of which were released in the same year and both borrowed a template from Erich Heckel's painting 'Roquairol'. This can't be an accident as Messrs Jones and Osterberg have often collaborated on each other's projects over the years and still makes me wonder if the two albums were designed to be part of a set? Regardless, at least it's refreshing to learn that 'Prog' clearly does not have a monopoly on overreaching art-wank poseurs.

Report this review (#301725)
Posted Sunday, October 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Bowie had already perfected his new approach by the time of this release and showed exactly how well he could incorporate it into his existing repertoire!

Unlike its predecessor, "Heroes" actually features songs that I can relate to and the album opening number, Beauty And The Beast, perfectly sums up this fact! Together with Joe The Lion, it brings that good old sense of joy to music making that I've actually not heard on a Bowie record since the days of Ziggy Stardust! The album's title track is an undisputed masterpiece, carried perfectly by Robert Fripp's lead guitar. But it's actually Sons Of The Silent Age that really steals the show for me here. Just like Scream Like A Baby, from Scary Monsters, it's just one of those perfectly weirded out moments that really speak to me in every possible way and I just can't get enough of everything it has to offer. I'm talking about the completely out of place saxophone intro, the weird ambient backing arrangement that constantly tries to incorporate themes of moments from the past but even gives a gimps of the things to come. Finally, the chorus itself is just perfect!

Side two is once again an instrumental affair and this is where Eno and Bowie really outdo themselves. All of these compositions work much better than any of the similar tracks from Low and Sense Of Doubt even breaks through the general excellence of the pieces and becomes one of the album's true highlights. The Secret Life Of Arabia did surprise me quite a bit when I heard it for the first time, but I've come to appreciate this weird little track more and more with time. What really always bothered me about this tune is that its lyrical content has very little to do with its music, so I've come to see it more like a suitable joke track that literally breaks the ambiance!

It's clear to me that the collaboration with Brian Eno gave David Bowie a new creative boost that would continue to be apparent even on the future albums. "Heroes" was easily the peak of that collaboration and even though I can't recommend this release to everyone, it's a must have addition to every Art Rock music collection!

***** star songs: Beauty And The Beast (3:35) "Heroes" (6:08) Sons Of The Silent Age (3:17) Sense Of Doubt (3:58)

**** star songs: Joe The Lion (3:06) Blackout (3:48) V-2 Schneider (3:10) Moss Garden (5:05) Neukoln (4:32) The Secret Life Of Arabia (3:45)

Report this review (#307298)
Posted Friday, October 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#348566)
Posted Thursday, December 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars It is incredible that this album is qualified so low, in my view this tells me that this album is misunderstood , this is the perfect album from the early Bowie; rocker and psychedelic and the other; experimental, electronic. Not to mention major interventions, contributing Carlos Alomar, Brian Eno and Bob Fripp, who take the Bowie´s concept to enrich, exploring new routes that highlight the proposal hearing. Here it comes down to deliver a top quality dish, from single "Heroes" (that is one of the album's weakest songs), to such wonders as "V2 Schneider"and in general the entire second half of the album, the electronica, visionary and complex disc, will have to listen more carefully to give the importance that deserves. 9 of 10.
Report this review (#439134)
Posted Monday, April 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Robert Fripp joins Bowie and Eno in Berlin to produce this manic art rock album which captures the New Wave spirit of the age perfectly. Having hung out with Iggy Pop for much of the previous year helping him get two solo albums together, Bowie had been inspired by Iggy's skill for ad-libbing lyrics at the mic and took a similarly improvisational approach to several of the songs, giving them a wild-eyed and energetic edge. Capturing a hectic, tense, chaotic atmosphere, the album also incorporates more gentle moments in its second half, including a nod or two to Kraftwerk that almost beats the electronic masters at their own game.
Report this review (#555054)
Posted Saturday, October 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars After having already taken music to startling new heights with Low, Bowie continued his bare bones production in Berlin with Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. And the music here is just as unusual, although "Heroes" is a bit more accessible and less dark than its predecessor in many ways. On the first half we have some alternative art-rock with "Beauty And The Beast" and "Joe The Lion" and the true gem is the title track, a great poetic composition with great harmonics. Also love "Sons Of The Silent Age" which touches on nostalgia and "V-2 Schneider" which was a nice nod to Kraftwerk. The second half comprises of some interesting ambient tracks like off the last album, with moods ranging from murky, soothing to horrific. A favourite here is "Neukolen", apparently inspired by the Berlin neighbourhood. Many fans reckon this album the pinnicle of the trilogy, though I'm torn between this and Low. They are both excellent albums and great places to check out what Bowie was doing at the height of his creativity.

Report this review (#577835)
Posted Tuesday, November 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars "Heroes" reminds me of "Low" as it really is an album of two halves; side one features pop angst and infectious melodies to rock to. Side two features synthesizer ditties and futuristic Krautrock influences. It begins with the catchy 'Beauty and the Beast' which is a great start and Bowie sounds ominous. 'Joe the Lion' never impacted me but I loved "Heroes" although it was played way too many times on the radio. This 6 minute version is a masterpiece though and once heard is never forgotten. What a wall of sound is generated here and Bowie at his most forceful and emotional; "nothing can drive us away, we can be heroes just for one day."

'Sons of the Silent Age' is a low droning song with Bowie sounding rather robotic. The tracks on side two are in stark contrast, mainly the instrumentals. My favourite track has always been 'V-2 Schneider' that really sounds more like Kraftwerk and I was a huge addict of the Kraut electronica at the time. The synths are heavy and powerful and Bowie is an incredible composer. 'Sense of Doubt', 'Moss Garden' and 'Neuköln' are all bizarre instrumentals with Krautrock nuances and motorik beats. Bowie was influenced and became an influence himself. Many listeners would have been thrown by these tracks sitting proudly on a Bowie album, but it is great to hear and kudos to Bowie for his daring and creativity. Brian Eno and Robert Fripp are once again part of the team and they inject some wonderful ambience in to these tunes.

It is a great album that could have been a masterpiece. There are brilliant moments and some mediocrity so we can round this off to 3 gold stars.

Report this review (#615517)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars Bowie's "Heroes" is a strange but graceful little record and it comes extremely close to a masterpiece if not for but a few moments of unneeded noodling.

It's a sophisticated pop record, Bowie's trademark, to start with, but it is filled with such raw emotion it's hard not to take notice. The first track almost seems lighthearted, but Eno's production technique on this record gives the listener the sense that something darker is lurking underneath and perhaps it is because the titular track is one of the most emotional piece of pop music ever written.

"We could be heroes, just for one day," Bowie says and it's this particular track that really evens out the record as a whole with it's pop tunes interlaced with the titular ballad and the weird sonic experimentation of side 2. That's what most people have a hard time with indeed, but I find it very relaxing music, starting with V-2 Schiender and eventually coming to the finale of the album Secret Life of Arabia which as it turns out is a very catchy end to an album that went through an odd phase just minutes before.

It's really kind of an oddity in Bowie's discog but it's also one of his best. Kind of like Alice Cooper's "Dada" or Bob Dylan's "Street-Legal". Those are cult albums within strong artists and sometimes those are the best albums in a musicians career.

4 stars because it's not the strongest record ever but still pretty amazing.

Report this review (#795827)
Posted Saturday, July 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars An excellent and unique album.

"Heroes" is a classic bowie album...and one of the more appreciated ones too. There is quite a lot of prog here in my opinion, most notably Krautrock. The sound is rough and punchy...those who are after clean production will be disappointed. "Heroes" is split into two main sections, the funky disco side, and the ambient experimental side. While I do really like some of the material on the second side, I personally prefer the first.

The album begins with "Beauty And The Beast", a fun pop tune that sets up the album very well. We then move on to "Joe The Lion". This is a catchy song, but after multiple listens it loses it's touch and gets dreary. "Heroes" is one of the greatest pop recordings ever made in my opinion. It is raw, punchy and emotional. "Sons of the Silent Age" is a great little track, and in my opinion, could pass as a space rock track. "Blackout" is simply incredible. I cannot think of a track that is more driven and energetic. This and Heroes are my favourite tracks on the album.

Side two opens with "V-2 Schneider", a repetitive but pleasant Krautrock inspired track. The song is followed by "Sense of Doubt", a dark instrumental. The track has some very nice synth textures, but it is unfortunately ruined by the chromatic piano riff. "Moss Garden" is very beautiful instrumental which is very atmospheric. Here we have Bowie playing the Koto, a traditional Japanese string instrument. "Neuköln" isn't bad, but i feel that more thought could be put into this track. The album finishes with "The Secret Life of Arabia", another highlight of the album. The track is mysterious, and brings "Heroes" to a thoughtful and puzzling conclusion.

Overall, I think that "Heroes" is a masterpiece, and I do consider it to be a progressive rock album. However, I do not consider it to be a masterpiece of progressive rock.

4 stars.


Report this review (#912043)
Posted Sunday, February 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars The second album of the notorious Berlin trilogy, Heroes continues and expands upon the working formula of Low in an album divided into two very distinct parts. One for the poppier, rockier tracks and one reserved for the more ambient and mood-driven compositions, with the exception of the last track that sneakily puts the album back in more grounded territory.

Make no mistake, the album's first half is a very strong set of driven, pumping and groovy rockers with loads of energy and excitement in their slightly spastic, slightly detached, slightly deranged, but ultimately unfathomably cool little ways. If you don't get the tense, icy swagger of Bowie's music, it's hard to properly explain. But believe me - it's there.

Propulsive rhythms carry expressive, jagged and relatively meaty songs into slick evolutionary trajectories. In comparison to Low it's all a bit more rootsy, chunky, dirty and less controlled, while retaining the beautiful and generous sprinklings of electronic quirkiness and textures alongside some mechanically mangled and screechy guitar angularity. You see, on Heroes there's just a more direct connection to the electric mainline: a fresh, jolting sense of urgent release as well as a stronger affinity for (albeit strangely lopsided and odd) hooks and catchy motifs, without the need to present everything with such cold calculation and precision as on Low. I love both approaches, but this one is definitely more welcoming, giving us more of the man and less of the machine.

You also find the pseudo-Motorik structure of the massive hit song (and album namesake). It floats on a combination of simple groove, rising, falling and floaty keys and leisurely plaintive and melodic anchoring. Hovering above it all is a beautifully piercing, sustained guitar. It's full of little oscillating synth waterfalls and an inviting hissy haze. Not for nothing, it has that same incidental breeziness and laid-back trance you sometimes find with Neu!, but with the added bonus of Bowie's more gregarious, obvious and emotive vocals. There's a reason why this is a classic. Pop-Kraut, if I ever heard it. Sons of the Silent Age also stands out in its slower, more deliberate and spacious arrangement. Evocative saxophone and a mysteriously downplayed keyboard and guitar backing generates a darker feel to this track. It tentatively worms between the cheesy, choir-laden and surprisingly lackadaisical verses. Feels like it's trying to catch up to itself without ever really succeeding. Unfortunately, it unsuccessfully aims to be an hybrid with past musical ventures, but even so it's definitely not without its merits.

Coming up to the instrumental side, it's just as good (if not better), and is able to cram so many moods and colours into so few minutes. V-2 Schneider has some sparse vocals, but is predominantly a relatively sunny and propulsive groove excursion with driving and simple bass-lines and percussion. On top of it you find some some sturdy synth backing, feisty saxophone and distinct flecks of guitar notes (with occasional droning chords and a lick or two). Sense of Doubt has a completely different use of space, where clear, cold and searching synth rays shoot out into a cavernous void where they mingle and echo in the company of an oppressively falling piano cascade. Distant hissing and weak scratches only further serve to make this a rather ominous, hesitant and dark piece. Moss Garden follows, and starts off with a crackling, recurring and deep electronic pulse that makes me think of distant aeroplanes taking off, but is soon joined by beautiful silken strands of pure synth that sway and change in colour and intensity in the background of a wonderfully pure, dry and clear koto. Gently it falls, like perfect droplets of water. The contrast is transformational, mysterious and strangely spiritual, generating images of pristine Oriental temple grounds in the grey morning light. Neuköln has a strangely underwater and bubbling narrative when it starts, obscure and abstract, but evolves into a frosty background organ as the stage for a despondent reciprocity between mournful and fateful guitar and urgent, but more freely wailing saxophone. Haunting, to say the least.

So what can I say? I couldn't care less if Bowie was a trailblazer or a trend vampire - poseur or provocateur. Probably a bit of everything. In the end that's not important. Low, and in this case, Heroes, remain the most successful crossovers and cross-fertilizations between the more mainstream and art-oriented European music of the time. And this while maintaining a strong identity of their own, something indefinably Bowie. None of them is a a proper masterpiece on their own, but together they're simply amazing.

Another example of four shining stars, without the necessary perfection for a fifth. Strangely, I think I like it even more like that, dirty little flaws included.

4 stars.


Report this review (#1148822)
Posted Saturday, March 15, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Not quite as good as Low, but still great innovation.

Working again with Brian Eno (and this time with Robert Fripp on some guitar solos), Bowie here makes one of his most experimental albums. And like many experiments, not everything here works. But when it does, it produces a number of really refreshing and new sonic landscapes. The album starts off with the very good "Beauty and the Beast", which, with "Joe the Lion", harken back to the music on Low. This is followed by "Heroes", by now one of Bowie's most iconic songs. Although I agree and I quite like the song, it is not my favourite on the album (indeed, its three-chord structure has worn on me over the decades). What I really like here though are the tracks that follow and make up most of the second side of the album. Here is where Bowie once again becomes a key innovator, with the help of Eno, and the result is a very memorable and different collection of music. While the album Heroes is not quite as good as Low (nor Station to Station), it is MUCH better than the album that would follow (Lodger), which I understand was made quickly in order to fulfill contractual obligations more than anything. I give this album 7.5 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to high-ish 3 PA stars.

Report this review (#1698192)
Posted Friday, March 3, 2017 | Review Permalink

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