Rekkids: David Bowie, “Heroes”

May 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

I currently have 1,884 albums on my 160GB iPod. I will listen to them all, in a random order, and write about them.

This seems as good a place as any to admit that there are scores of albums in my music collection that I have never listened to, not even once.

There was a period of time several years ago when one of my favorite pastimes was surfing usenet for random, obscure, and interesting music. I hope I’m not incriminating myself by admitting that. It was the closest my internet content stealing experience has ever come to the joy of browsing a well-stocked indie record store, except I was broke so I couldn’t afford that, and anyway, would I really have taken a chance on half the stuff I swiped for free? Or would I have even found most of it at all? I’ve got 200MB or so of 1930’s era singles sold at newsstands as Hits of the Week; are those on iTunes yet?

Anyway, now I spend far less time exploring for music and engage in strategic acquisitions. A favorite artist has a new record, I hit Amazon for the download; nine bucks and five minutes later, it’s on my computer.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that Bowie is a pretty massive blind spot in my musical appreciation, including “Heroes,” which I realize I have owned for a few years now and have NEVER EVEN LISTENED TO IT. In general, I like what I know, but I don’t know enough. Man, that should be on my tombstone.

I am doubly ashamed to admit that my first exposure to “Heroes” was as part of a medley in the Baz Luhrmann musical vehicle Moulin Rouge, which is the kind of film you really love minutes after seeing it, but a few years later feel kinda embarassed about. I once owned it on DVD, so it was like embarassment I could carry around with me in a clamshell case.

Being a Bowie ignoramus, it’s hard for me to jump in here and get anything together on his second collaboration with Eno. Especially because of the Eno part. He’s…well, he’s ENO, you know? It’s a bit difficult to stumble along and pretend I can speak to his work cause I don’t know squat about it yet.

I will say that the long “instrumental” sequence on “side two” of “Heroes” was one of those listening experiences that seems to require packing a doob on the album sleeve to really appreciate. It’s a soundtrack for being stoned, or for some kind of werid tantric sex, and a bit of a hard listen. I did like the skronking saxophone near the end, devoid of any warmth whatsoever.

What’s always surprising to me about Bowie’s songs is his bittersweet chord changess. The chorus of “Sons of the Silent Age” is full of relative minor changes that just typify regret and wistfulness for me. It’s all over the place in pop music but Bowie seems especially fond of them. I think Paul McCartney was too.

When Bowie’s bittersweet chords are lathered in Eno’s clinical, dark production, you have a recipie for ambivalence, and I mean that in a good way. You don’t know whether to approach the songs or keep them at arm’s length; you’re not sure whether you’ll understand them or not, and even if you do, they may try to hurt you in the end. Or have some weird tantric sex. Either way.

Rekkids is posted alternately at Pop Geek and Alert Nerd. Catch up with the Alert Nerd entries here.

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Entry filed under: Music, Rekkids. Tags: , , , , , .

Lent 2010

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