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Talking Heads - Talking Heads: 77 CD (album) cover


Talking Heads


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3.72 | 97 ratings

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4 stars You know, I was just about to summarize the evolution of my impressions of this album with "first listen: boring except "Psycho Killer," etc; second listen: at least the sound is pretty neat, though too samey, etc; third listen: really cool etc." Then I happened to discover that, without my realizing it, one of my old friends had reviewed this album with almost the exact same opening, and my plans were laid to waste. Still, that my instinct of what to write on this matched somebody else's should indeed give an indication of how this album is. Those who associate Talking Heads with all of the incessant overdubs and thick sound of the '79-'80 albums will probably be shocked when listening to this for the first time - it's mostly just the bandmembers, with almost no production embellishments, playing what on the surface is a bunch of boring formulaic late-70's pop (as Mark Prindle once brilliantly put it, this sounds like a guitar pop album created by a bunch of people who have just had full frontal lobotomies). Who needs it?

Well, as you might gather, I do. Maybe the band's roots are in "unexciting" music, but there's so many slight eyebrow-raising twists that I can't help but like this album a lot. Could any other band take a standard pop song like the opening "Uh Oh, Love Comes to Town" (with a great bassline) and give it a whole other dimension simply with the attachment of "Uh Oh" to the beginning of the song, or with emotionally ambiguous lyrics as those in the chorus ("here comes a riddle, here comes a clue, if you are really smart, you'll know what to do")? Would a normal album have tweaked guitar interplay and half-sung/half-spoken lyrics like those of "New Feeling" combined with such a great tweaked melody? Would any other band think to give a song like "Tentative Decisions" a martial drumming pattern under the "Oh the boys want to talk ..." parts, giving the song a sort of comic majesty to go with traditional opposite-gender angst?

Sheesh, it just goes on. I could live without "Happy Day," which is a bit too sappy without being memorable enough, and I guess "Who is It?" is a somewhat stupid groove (I like it more than I should, though - that instrumental texture is just too addictive), but I find more good than bad in every one of the other songs (except for the fact that trying to unstick them from each other in my mind after the album's done is still a major problem, which is why the rating is as low as it is). "No Compassion" is notable because it bookends a nonsensical/anthemic (a combination other groups would be hardpressed to achieve, to say the least) main section with a fine shimmery riff topped off with perfect shimmery slide guitars. "The Book I Read" is notable because it's a great take on the "nervous love song" genre, combining the standard paranoid mutterings with that beautiful "na na na ...." part. "Don't Worry About the Government" makes lines like "My building has every convenience" as moving and anthemic as hearing "God Bless America" (and then goes into playful territory with the "loved ones, loved ones ..." chunk), "Psycho Killer" finds the one and only way to make a piece about a homicidal maniac (with a menacing bass intro, no less) into a post-modern poppy blast ("Psycho killer, q'uest-ce que c'est? fa fa fa fa fa fa ... better run run run run run run away ..."), and the closing "Pulled Up" combines playful guitars with UP UP UP... screams (that probably inspired Mick Jagger for some of his ramblings in "Shattered") to terrific effect.

Of course, there are weaknesses. The biggest problem from a reviewing point of view is that, well, these songs make it very difficult to explain the album without namechecking every song. These songs are cool, neat, demented and catchy (a lot of the time), but even the moments that seem kinda emotional seem as though it's just David Byrne laughing at me. And, of course, there's the fact that I'd forgotten a lot of these cool aspects of the tracks until I just was flipping through them to jog my memory of what the heck is where. But it's good. VERY good.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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