David Bowie
Heroes


5.0
classic

Review

by Stephen Gore USER (43 Reviews)
December 22nd, 2006 | 48 replies


Release Date: 1977 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The new Bowie is finally accepted, and sets out the blueprint for electronic music for the next decade

Ziggy the alien had come crashing down to earth in the previous album, Low. Disillusioned with fame and glam-rock, David Bowie started searching for a new musical direction in the late seventies. He wanted to kill off his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust and attempt something completely different. Station To Station was his first real stab at this, and utilized the relatively new instrument, the synthesizer. In fact, Bowie had always had a fascination with this new sound. In the early seventies, Ziggy's live shows were often started with synth music created by Walter/Wendy Carlos for the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's polemic film, A Clockwork Orange.

Low, groundbreaking and baffling as it was at the time, was not easy to get into for the casual listener and definitely a mystery to Ziggy's followers. "Heroes", on the other hand, has a little more energy and accessibility to it, while still managing to remain faithful to the new style created by Bowie and Visconti (Brian Eno is often credited with production of Bowie's Berlin albums, however this role was filled by Tony Visconti. Asked to define Eno's role years later, Bowie apparently named him as an 'ideas co-ordinator').

It starts in a more dynamic fashion to its predecessor, with the raucous 'Beauty And The Beast'. Containing some classic Bowie lyrics, "My My/Smile At Least/You Can't Say No To The Beauty And The Beast", it's as catchy as many of Ziggy's tracks, yet has less of the rock flourishes and a little bit of background-synthery mischief going on. 'Joe The Lion' carries on this upbeat tempo and rocks even harder, and the wonderful lyrics are suitably ambiguous: "You Can Get Up And Sleep/You Can Buy God".

But it's the next track that overshadows everything on the first half of this album. "Heroes" is, arguably, David Bowie's greatest song ever. Over six minutes long, you still wish it would go on for longer. Lyrically and musically it's extremely anthemic, and its lyrics are especially noticeable for their German/WWII/Berlin references: "I, I Remember/Standing By The Wall/The Guns Shot Above Our Heads". It's such a spirited and moving track, complete with Bowie's best vocal; it makes the succeeding two tracks look mediocre by comparison, though they are fine in themselves. 'Blackout' is particularly noticeable, with its over-dramatic chorus that screams in a panic, "Get Me To A Doctor's/I've Been Told Someone's Back In Town".

But Side Two (we're talking vinyl here) is where Bowie packed the real surprise. In a similar vein to Low, it's comprised of a sequence of four instrumental tracks that are filled with synths and odd, distorted effects from 'real' instruments; it's probably of the most creative pieces of work by this man. 'V-2 Schneider' starts with the droning of aeroplanes, before brass instruments come to the fore, and a floaty, barely-discernable voice (possibly via a vocoder?) proclaims the arrival of the 'V-2 Schneider'. It's still quite jazzy and upbeat (though definitely quirky), and is in direct contrast to the next track that comes to us through the sound of falling rain...

'Sense Of Doubt' is truly disturbing, with a simple yet effective falling four-note sequence that sounds incredibly doomy. The other synth effects here are deliberately disorganised, as if they don't know where to go. Ambient watery effects add to the nightmarish quality of this track, as do the strange, childlike, giggly effects to be heard in places. Near the end of the track, a warm organ-like synth sound threatens to rescue the listener, before those four notes come in again.
'Moss Garden' therefore brings some welcome relief. Listening to this, you are transported to a peaceful, Zen-like garden, a Japanese string teasing away in the background to give this interlude a truly oriental feeling. 'Neukoln', on the other hand, reaches back to some of the more ominous feelings on this album. While not as desolate as 'Sense Of Doubt', it's nevertheless a little disconcerting, thanks to the distorted tootings reigning over it all. It's weird enough to separate it from the rest of this instrumental second half, and ends on some horrible notes (but in the good, 'interesting' way).

Which is why 'The Secret Life Of Arabia' is so frustrating. The last notes on this album should be the bizarre squealing sounds of 'Neukoln'. Why finish with a track that is neither instrumental nor of the quality of the first songs on the album? It's still a good track, conveying a more humourous feeling than the other songs, but would have been more comfortable on Young Americans.

Still, that's just nitpicking, I suppose. The unique but hit-and-miss Low started this impressive triptych, and the funkier Lodger finished it, but "Heroes" has it all. It would be the album that every young budding musician would refer to for guidance and inspiration for the next decade, and beyond.



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"Heroes" is a pioneer in the heavy usage of excellent synthesizer work, but the albums structure can...


Comments:Add a Comment 
JumpTheF**kUp
December 22nd 2006


2710 Comments


In under a week, you've written 9 reviews? You remind me of Kripes/Storm in a Teacup back in the day.
Anyways, cool review, I voted. :thumb:

Kaleid
December 22nd 2006


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks manThis Message Edited On 07.09.07

AnyColour74
December 22nd 2006


1054 Comments


I liked this review. Good job

The Jungler
December 22nd 2006


4827 Comments


Hey, cool to see you branching out from Depeche. Bowie rules.
Good review.

Sepstrup
December 23rd 2006


1563 Comments


I need this album. I like Low a lot especially "Warszawa".

You'd think your reviews would suffer in quality from your prolificness, but it doesn't seem like that's the case. Excellent job.This Message Edited On 12.23.06

Sepstrup
January 14th 2007


1563 Comments


*Looks at Acidicity*

What a fucking dork


Zing!

*edits to cover up spelling mistakes*This Message Edited On 01.14.07

Kaleid
January 16th 2007


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Tsk tsk...covering my well-written review with profanities.


That's MY ****ing job

Sepstrup
January 16th 2007


1563 Comments


It's a really awesome review. Tied with Violator as your best yet, probably. I really like the album as well but I haven't given it the time it deserves, just a few listens actually. I'll get on it though.

You should review more Bowie. I should too.

Kaleid
January 16th 2007


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Y'know, funny you should say that, I was gonna have a crack at 'Low' or 'Let's Dance' sometime soon. But I've gotta do that 'difficult' album I mentioned before first
Oh, and this definitely deserves repeated listens. Especially the instrumentalsThis Message Edited On 01.16.07

indietrash
February 23rd 2007


85 Comments


good review. even better album.

aladdinstardust
September 9th 2007


1 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Excellent review of a truly wonderful and often overlooked masterpiece. The only qualm I have is that you stated Station to Station was Bowie's first attempt at something "completely different," whereas I would think Young Americans from the previous year showed Bowie's departure from the Ziggy sound and era quite thoroughly.

I look forward to reading your other reviews!

Kaleid
September 9th 2007


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hmm, I'd sort of half agree with you; Young Americans was a departure of sorts, Station To Station was all into synths; Low was wildly different to either though. Ta for the commentThis Message Edited On 09.09.07

Sepstrup
September 9th 2007


1563 Comments


This reminds me that I need to give this album a spin again. Maybe if I actually bought it

jk2two
September 9th 2007


105 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I have to go Lodger or Low before Heroes. Lodger is by far my favorite from his Berlin period.

Kaleid
September 9th 2007


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

SEPSTRUP WHERE have you BEEN

^Really? Lodger is definitely underrated, and a funky album, but I reckon this is more interesting. Especially the instrumentals.

Did I mention the instrumentals?This Message Edited On 09.09.07

jk2two
September 10th 2007


105 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Nope, just gave it another spin because of this conversation, and I can't do it - Neukoin & Sense of Doubt are good, but I think the instrumentals on Low are better, and the "songs" on both Lodger and Low are better than the first four tunes on Heroes. I have to admit, I've never been able to really like this alubm...I can't explain it, because most of the fans regard it as classic, I just don't see it.

Meatplow
March 20th 2008


5524 Comments


excellent review

I love this album to bits recently, I listen to it so much

SonicPixie
April 18th 2008


11 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My fav bowie album. I "only" own 6 of his albums and still need to hear Heroes and Lodger, but I doubt I've love 'em more than Low.

This album has few stand-out tracks that grab you, but as an album its a great collection of songs - a consistent vibe throughout (despite the two "sides" sounding like two completely different albums/artists/genres).

Wish I was alive when this was released........

Kaleid
April 18th 2008


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

nvmThis Message Edited On 07.21.08

Anthracks
August 24th 2008


3744 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I prefer Lodger and Low, this isn't one of my favorite Bowie albums.

Digging: Perfume Genius - Too Bright



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