Monday, November 11, 2013

Speaking in Tongues -- Talking Heads -- Review

Speaking in Tongues (1983)
Rating: 8
"Stop making sense!"
Best Song: This Must Be the Place
Worst Song: Girlfriend is Better

       After the hyper-obsessive, ultra-intense sessions for Remain in Light were finished and the critical praise started rolling in, the band was stressed out to the max. They all proceeded to diverge and create a load of various solo projects (Byrne and Eno released their ultra-influential My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Jerry released his underrated solo debut The Red and the Black, and Tina and Chris joined forces and became the surprisingly successful Tom Tom Club) until they eventually got back together three years later...without Eno. Now, no one is quite sure exactly why Eno left, although most seem to think that Byrne fired him as a way of preserving the band's identity -- none of the other members were as head-over-heels in love with Brian as Byrne was, and I'm guessing that David decided to drop Eno as a way of keeping in-fighting down. Besides, after Remain, where were they going to go with Eno? What else could they do? They had reached the very top of the mountain, as far as groundbreaking sonic experimentation was concerned. And thus, they decided to go in the exact opposite direction...they SOLD OUT.   
       Okay, that's a bit of an overstatement, but there's some truth to it -- the music video for "Once in a Lifetime" was a MAJOR MTV hit, becoming one of the most famous music videos ever, and the silly dance-pop of the Tom Tom Club had introduced some of the band members to a decent degree of popularity. I can't blame them for wanting to capitalize on their success, I just...wish they had done it in a more interesting way. This is nothing more than 50 straight minutes of bouncy dance-pop, "The Great Curve"-for-dummies, a poor man's Prince. It's all listenable, mind you (and certain songs, like the awesome, bluesy "Swamp" and the infamous "Burning Down the House" approach excellence), but it's also mostly forgettable. Of course, it was popular, and this album is the main reason that most average Joes recognize the name "Talking Heads", and for that I suppose I'm grateful, but I don't see myself throwing this one on very much in the future. 
       It also doesn't help that every song here is 5 or so minutes long (I suppose that's a suitable amount for a dance song, but still), leading to a very tiring experience. I could list some songs out for you, but I really don't see the point -- they're all bouncy, slightly catchy (well, except "Girlfriend is Better" -- I don't like that one at all), and generally pleasant background music, but from the people responsible for Fear of Music you would expect a little more than that. No thank you. (Oh, but "This Must Be the Place" is a deserved classic, a strangely beautiful, introspective near-ballad. Make sure to track down that one, "Burning Down the House", and "Swamp". You're welcome.) 

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