David Bowie – Heathen

511FtQoLsVLI dislike it when people compare DB’s latest album to Scary Monsters. Not because Heathen outpaces the bizarreness and breadth of that album – it doesn’t. But this is not 1980, Bowie is not 33, and Scary Monsters is not much fun to listen to.

Heathen will be familiar to those who read the reviews of …hours but did not buy it. This is Bowie slipping through his catalog of styles, toying at whim. It plays a lot like people thought …hours did (which was more one-half Hunky Dory, one-half stuff that isn’t very good). Heathen is not a grand or cohesive statement, but it is fun. And it proves that DB is a great songwriter without the cut-up weirdness that makes even the best tracks on 1.Outside and Earthling sound empty.

But how are the songs? All in all, decent. “Slip Away” is an immediate fave, juggling spaced oddity with the gloom that informs so much of the man. The covers are fine, particularly a crushing rendition of Neil Young’s “I’ve Been Waiting For You.” (It sounds a bit too close to the Pixies — also covered here — and their version.) However, the electronica with which Bowie has experimented for five years is grating. Synthesized squiggles replace actual music on certain tracks, and by album’s end the whole thing has grown dull.

Still, Heathen is a self-assured record, not something you’d regret buying and nothing very new. There’s plenty of fun, and there is craft. Overall, though, it’s a miss. C’est la vie.

Rating: B-

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com