This is turgid stuff, but in the best way. The title track still strongly affects me every time I hear it. There is an ambient section in the middle after all the tub-thumpers which I am ambivalent about. The finale of 'Secret Life of Arabia' rounds the album off splendidly with a foray into north African stylings and Dave sounding very melodramatic and very much from south London. It is a masterpiece, I think Dave does not get the recognition he deserves, and as ever Bowie was way ahead of his time (with a little help from Can and Cluster etc.)
Beautiful. David Bowie, may his soul be eternal, gave us many exciting, exuberant, camp, easy-to-like & hard-to-love albums, but with Heroes he gave us beauty. He also included, after the hors d-oeuvre of Beauty and the Beast & Joe the Lion, a six-minute slice of magnificence called "Heroes" (always the inverted commas!) which never fails to take this listener's breath away. It's quite simply a great song, done to perfection by Bowie, Alomar, Eno, Fripp et al - though his live recordings of it are superb too. Sons of the Silent Age is another fine song, as is the very enjoyable closer The Secret Life of Arabia. Between them are four haunting instrumentals, including the evocative Moss Garden (echoes of Bowie's love of Japan?) and Sense of Doubt. Instead of, as some reviewers have claimed, lessening the impact of this album, for me they only add to its austere, clear-eyed beauty. Back in '77 when I bough the LP, I was intrigued by the non-vocal tracks, liking them but not that fussed, but now I love them as an integral part of this unique record. Low was terrific, and so is "Heroes" - a far better album, to my mind, than the cold, rather unyielding histrionics of Station to Station, which I find overrated and overwrought. (I wonder how often its fans actually play it.) This is a silver-bright milestone in Bowie's musical odyssey, and I love it from beginning to end.
If I had to choose three essential and influential Bowie albums, I'd go for Ziggy Stardust, Low and this one. Quite simply, if youre at all interested in the history of rock music, this is a key moment. Punk was breaking in the UK and many of the "old" generation were being labelled dinosaurs. Bowie had already released Low earlier in 1977 and Heroes, like it's predecessor, has a run of instrumentals in its second half. Low had confused many critics at the time, and the instrumental Side 2 of that album had sounded to some like an unwelcome diversion into ersatz mood music or even the dreaded prog. Unlike Low, Heroes has a brace of more fully formed songs rather than the Eno-esque song fragments that made up Side 1 of Low. The monochromatic cover art with Bowie's intense stare sums up the overall mood: this is an album of cool, bleached out sounds, often harsh and treble-y, perfectly evoking the Cold War atmosphere of its recording close to the Berlin Wall. None of the bright stabs of colours seen on Low and little of the lush warmth of his plastic soul days here (the nearest we get is the album closer, The Secret Life of Arabia). Standouts include the mighty title track, of course, which builds on a rolling riff of Frippertronics guitar from Bob Fripp, but also songs such as Beauty & the Beast and Sons of the Silent Age, the latter harking back to songs from his Aladdin Sane phase. Weakest track is probably Blackout, a song I can never put a title to whenever I hear it! Heroes as an album was pretty well received on release, if my memory holds out, no doubt as journalists were prepared now for an almost entire second half of instrumentals having heard Low earlier in the year. The four instrumentals on offer here work well together, unlike the four on Low which were too different to coalesce into whole. The sprightly V2 Schneider kicks off Heroes' cycle, evoking something of the bustle of Berlin to me with it's Sax motifs and rat-a-tat drumming. The title has been explained many ways but the one I always recall is it was intended as a chilly repost to Kraftwerk, who had name-checked Bowie and Station to Station in Trans-Europe Express earlier that year. Sense of Doubt abolishes any upbeat mood and establishes a well-proportion air of chilly gloom with its repeated descending piano scales and tremulous Chamberlain/Mellotron lines. The track then segues into the beautiful Moss Garden via a glorious phased "burn" of noise which owes much to the tricks of the German bands of that period such as Faust and Neu! Moss Garden, named after those Japanese gardens known for evoking a landscape and an air of tranquility and reflective calm, certainly comes up trumps in that respect, with Bowie playing a Japanese koto and birdsong in the background. Its a little oasis of calm before NeuKoln, named after a cosmopolitan suburb of Berlin with a high immigrant population, which features some of Bowie's most abstract sax playing (particularly the desolate parping at the end) over some organ sounds that owe a lot to Pink Floyd's Meddle album. With its oreiental vague feel and successful re-establishment of the feeling of dread and alienation established with Sense of Doubt, it good to have the gloom punctured finally by the upbeat Secret Life of Arabia. This track also continues the global travelogue that Bowie would explore more on Lodger and which Eno would take further in his collaboration with David Byrne, My life in the Bush of Ghosts. Heroes cemented Bowie's reputation as a chameleon and game-changer, found immediate favour with the critics (album of the year for several) and more importantly, chimed well with the emerging post-punk scene who shared similar themes of alienation and isolation. He had side-stepped the dinosaur trap.