For the first time in the 70's it seems Bowie lapsed into a formula, returning to Berlin with Visconti and Eno to record another album, with an instrumental side and a song-based side.
follows the Low
template, where Low
felt both groundbreaking and natural, Heroes
feels more contrived, with the two sides having distinct identities - the instrumentals less accessible than before, and the songs longer and more arranged - losing the natural flow of Low
and instead feeling like a pair of EPs sellotaped together.
On the positive side, a new band member for the record is King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, and his addition to Bowie's already virtuoso and idiosyncratic band means that Heroes
sounds terrific even if the material or the conceptual approach is sometimes lacking. While Fripp and Eno have collaborated on many other projects, it's interesting to hear them in the context of a funky modernistic rhythm section, where they're merely hired musicians, fighting for attention within a dynamic band.
Objections about formula aside, the real problem with Heroes
is that the instrumental second side isn't that interesting. As well as losing the novelty factor of Low
, more crucially the material just isn't as carefully-constructed as its predecessor, more like jams with interesting textures than expressions of emotions.
On the other hand, the first side is
strong, opening with the claustrophobic "Beauty and the Beast", and centred on the 6-minute title track, a suicide pact tale that was somehow co-opted into an uplifting anthem in much the same way that Springsteen's "Born in the USA" would in the next decade.
The album tracks push the envelope even further. "Blackout" is impressionistic and cathartic, while Bowie's phrasing gives "Joe the Lion" a weird energy. There's also a full song tacked onto the end of the instrumental side, the funky piano groove of "The Secret Life of Arabia", and although it's sequenced like an afterthought, it's arguably the strongest song on the disc.
is relatively weak by Bowie standards for this stage of his career, it's still cut from the same cloth as his contemporaneous works, so it's hard to imagine any fan of late-70's Bowie being too disappointed.Rated:
by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia
(blogging at Fyfeopedia [Defunct]