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Album Review

Heathen marks a new beginning for David Bowie in some ways — it's his first record since leaving Virgin, his first for Columbia Records, his first for his new label, ISO — yet it's hardly a new musical direction. Like Hours, this finds Bowie sifting through the sounds of his past, completely at ease with his legacy, crafting a colorful, satisfying album that feels like a classic Bowie album. That's not to say that Heathen recalls any particular album or any era in specific, yet there's a deliberate attempt to recapture the atmosphere, the tone of his '70s work — there's a reason that Bowie decided to reteam with Tony Visconti, the co-producer of some of his best records, for this album — even if direct comparisons are hard to come by. Which is exactly what's so impressive about this album. Bowie and Visconti never shy away from electronic instrumentations or modern production — if anything, they embrace it — but it's woven into Bowie's sound subtly, never drawing attention to the drum loops, guitar synths, and washes of electronica. For that matter, guest spots by Dave Grohl and Pete Townshend (both on guitar) don't stand out either; they're merely added texture to this an album that's intricately layered, but always plays smoothly and alluringly. And, make no mistake, this is an alluring, welcoming, friendly album — there are some moody moments, but Bowie takes Neil Young's eerie "I've Been Waiting for You" and Pixies' elusively brutal, creepy "Cactus" and turns them sweet, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, either. In the end, that's the key to Heathen — the undercurrent of happiness, not in the lyrics, but in the making of music, a realization by Bowie and Visconti alike that they are perfect collaborators. Unlike their previous albums together, this doesn't boldly break new ground, but that's because, 22 years after their last collaboration, Scary Monsters, both Bowie and Visconti don't need to try as hard, so they just focus on the craft. The result is an understated, utterly satisfying record, his best since Scary Monsters, simply because he'd never sounded as assured and consistent since.

Customer Reviews

Heathen- Bowie's Underground Masterpiece

An album that is truly refreshing in so many ways. Bowie performance in Heathen is somewhat a return to Hunky Dory's raw emotional sincereity with a darker, more modern, yet oddly charming allure. Bowie's vocals in this album are more rich and robust than they have been in any album prior, the direct result that can only arise from decades of experience and experimentation. Songs such as Sunday, Slip Away, I Would be you Slave and Heathen have an odd sense of transendental residue previously unseen in Bowie's corpus. Sunday, his vocals are stained with isolation, despair and acceptance, makes for a surreal opening track to Heathen that leaves a lasting impression throughout. Afraid brings an upbeat yet charmingly quaint vibe to Heathen and makes its presence as the foremost "rock out" on Heathen. 5:15 The Angels Have Gone incorporates an incredibly strong compilation of drums/bass/surreal electronica that create an incredibly soothing vibe perforated by howls of such jolting intensity it feels as though perhaps we are in Bowie's company during his train ride. Heathen (The Rays) marks the end of Heathen and a fuller understanding of Heathen as a whole. "Waiting for something, Looking for someone, Is there no Reason?" This song is perhaps his most philosophical work since quicksand and supermen but in a far different away, its calling is about life and there's something uniquely magical about it. This may very well be my own favorite Bowie album just for the fact that its a totally different Bowie, one that seems closer to the heart. Give this album a one through if you ever get the chance, you may be surprised.

There is a God...

This album is the sexiest thing ever to hit the airwaves. Thank you David Bowie and team. I have been listening to it for 3 years since it came out and it never disappoints. Hypnotic, mesmerizing.


As a Bowie fan since pre-MWSTW days, turned on as a neighbor of his in Beckenham, I had trouble with his direction post Diamond Dogs. With age however I have gained greater appreciation of his work through the 80's and 90's. "Heathen" rekindled my fire, and is Bowie's best effort since "Heroes". "Sunday" is preminition of 911 and incapsulates that day perfectly dispite being recorded well before the brutal attack. "Cactus" is Bowie at his best. "Gemini Spaceship" is a nod and a wink toward a long lost hilarious minor influnce from the Ziggy days, the Stardust Cowboy. (Check out "Paralized"!) Great stuff.

Heathen, David Bowie
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  • $8.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Prog-Rock/Art Rock, Pop, Pop/Rock, Arena Rock
  • Released: Jun 11, 2002

Customer Ratings