Saturday, February 23, 2013

Heathen (2002)

Along the David Bowie comeback trail I must admit that this is (another) one I missed. Full disclosure: I have been off the David Bowie comeback trail since Let's Dance and certainly by Tin Machine. But to be perfectly clear, I bear him no real ill will. I just lost interest. Not even Outside, the 1995 reunion with Brian Eno, ever had much appeal. Some of the albums I arrived at late, perhaps most notably 1984's Tonight, possibly 1987's Never Let Me Down, turned out to be better than expected. But I have learned to be cautious with this fine old fellow. A little study clarifies the appeal of Heathen—mostly the familiar Thin White Duke/Bing Crosby persona reunited with a bunch of the old gang. A good bet. Tony Visconti, last seen with Bowie on Scary Monsters, is the producer, and those on hand include something new and something old at every turn: Carlos Alomar, Lisa Germano, Dave Grohl, Tony Levin, Pete Townshend, etc. There are covers of songs by the Pixies, Neil Young, and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy (which when listed that way appear almost focus-grouped in their clinical precision), but most of the songs are by Bowie. Now I would be kidding you if I tried to say this didn't have its share of some very delectable moments, e.g., the surprising crispness of Townshend's texturing on "Slow Burn," the sultry and effective mood of "I Would Be Your Slave," a certain vaguely retro charm to "I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship," with some nice horns too, and especially the callow beauties of "Everyone Says 'Hi'," which somehow for me connects all the way back to the earliest songs he wrote, when it was Davy Jones & the Lower Third. And the sound of Heathen is resolutely familiar and comforting. There's no doubt about that—I never mind hearing it play. But ultimately it just kind of sits there and flops around a little. I note the nice moments in passing. The rest of it fades hard into the background. Even when I try to concentrate on it my mind wanders. It's just the same old problem. It doesn't interest me that much. I like it more than Outside, but maybe not as much as Tonight. Let me put it that way.

1 comment:

  1. I'd never even heard of this title but at least it looks, assuming the image you share is the cover art, cool in that old futurist, possessed, alien kind of way.