1977 – RCA
Alternative/ Rock/ Electronic/ Experimental/Disco/ New Wave
David Bowie’s Twelfth studio album and final record in his Berlin trilogy is a great piece of work. It is flooded with the flippancy, sadness, and experimentalism that characterises that portion of Bowie’s long career, and its off-putting disco dance on the album’s A-side contrast perfectly against the textured sound-scapes of the latter half.
Beauty and The Beast and Joe The Lion are wonderful introductions to what this record is all about. The beats are pounding and weird screechy noises fly around in the background of the music while Bowie’s voice pleads with the listener like some sort of disillusioned raver that has been chewed up and spat out by the relentless party scene.
And then we come to the title track “Heroes” which breaks down the walls of tinny nightclub noise to show the beauty and romance that still lingers somewhere deep down within the hollowed shell of this giant of music. Now, “Heroes” is a song that I’m sure most of us have heard and (probably) most of us like well enough, but in the context of the rest of the album the track becomes much more than just a good single that stands out against the glut of late seventies New Wave music from the same time. “Heroes” on the album, nestled between the junky-disco-inferno of Joe The Lion and the eerie dystopia of Sons of The Silent Age, becomes the hopeful gleam of light that holds back the unrelenting despair of the rest of the record.
For me the side one of “Heroes” is brilliantly expressed journey through a world of illusion and detachment. It reeks of cocaine emptiness and sheer boredom with the ‘fun’ of party lifestyle and somehow none of it comes across as self-indulgent or disingenuous. You can hear pain and it seems real, almost as if the listener themselves were standing on the cold street outside a West Berlin nightclub.
And if side one is the loneliness of crowds then side two is the music of being genuinely alone. V-2 Schneider begins this section of the record with an eerie sparseness in direct contrast to the clutter of the previous tracks and is followed by more spacious sound-scapes like Sense of Doubt and Neukoln which are laced with both yearning misery and a sense of peaceful optimism.
The influence of Brian Eno here is very apparent, and it’s not a bad thing. In collaboration Eno and Bowie have created some incredibly luscious textures of sound and states of mind through emptiness and intelligent composition. The haunting saxophone wail of Neukoln and the Japanese inspirations of Moss Garden capture the imagination of the listener and walk them calmly through a desert of emotions. Here is music as an art form at one of its heights.
“Heroes” is an amazing record and one which should be near the front of anyone’s collection. It is a work of art with pop sensibilities that coldly laughs in the face of the essence of pop music. For me it is a high point in the chronology of rock music and an obvious highlight of Bowie’s illustrious career. I really can’t recommend it highly enough.
Here is the clip for the title track from “Heroes”.
It is probably one of the best and most well known songs from the album.
- David Bowie … Heroes, 1977 (frithstreetpost.com)
- Tonight – David Bowie (ljfacesthemusic.wordpress.com)
- Caitlin Moran on TV: Whenever pop is ambitious, it’s thanks to Bowie (thetimes.co.uk)