Friday, January 5, 2018

Talking Heads 3: Fear Of Music

For their third album, Talking Heads made a conscious effort not to be overly commercial or mainstream, recording quickly with a mobile truck from their rehearsal space, and keeping most of the song titles to a single word. Brian Eno was brought back to produce, and his interests helped them find new sounds and better use for David Byrne’s voice throughout Fear Of Music.
African influences abound on the inspiration for “I Zimbra”, with nonsense lyrics taken from a dada poem. A little slower but just as danceable, “Mind” percolates with ping-ponging guitars and keyboards, wacky bass bursts, and Byrne finding another wacky character to inhibit. We like the Television-style guitars on “Paper”, but “Cities” is even more intense and insistent, with that adhesive “checking it out” hook. But the real hit tune is “Life During Wartime” (better known as “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco… I ain’t got time for that now”), which is just plain funky. “Memories Can’t Wait” slows down the funk but lays on the dirt, ending a very strong side one.
High breathy voices are the perfect embellishment for a song called “Air”; we’re assuming Jerry Harrison is playing those fine leads. “Heaven” is reminiscent of Bowie’s first two Berlin albums, and even though some might balk at the less than pious sentiment, we don’t know why this song hasn’t been covered more. From here the album gets a little trying. “Animals” is a decent track, but the lyrics are a little too clever, and the gruff vocals don’t really help. “Electric Guitar” is even more cacophonous, but it’s worth listening for Tina’s wacky bass in the back. Finally, “Drugs” sounds the most like an Eno track, suitably disconcerting and jarring.
Despite their contrarian intentions, Fear Of Music was their most consistent, tight, and accomplished album to date, and incredibly catchy to boot. It was too weird for top 40 radio, but FM radio ate it up, and the songs still sound fresh today. (In a demonstration of their efficiency, the expanded CD includes only one unfinished song, and three early mixes of three others.)

Talking Heads Fear Of Music (1979)—
2006 CD reissue: same as 1979, plus 4 extra tracks

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