Friday, May 17, 2019

Talking Heads 6: Speaking In Tongues

A break seemed to do Talking Heads a bit of good, as their next album was concise and mostly coherent. Speaking In Tongues eschewed the experimentalism of the Eno years, delivering a set of upbeat yet still quirky tunes, just like the first album, but updated for the ‘80s and with danceable grooves.
That said, opening track and first single “Burning Down The House” managed to become a regular earworm with its prominent acoustic guitar over a minimalist backing, up against spooky modern keyboard whooshes and burps. (The band already well versed in the visual arts, the accompanying music video also helped sell the album.) The dance party continues with an exhortation at the top of “Making Flippy Floppy”, proving that David Byrne might have actually listed to his rhythm section’s Tom Tom Club side project in between Prince albums. “Girlfriend Is Better” revives the twisted love songs that started them out, punctuated by laser-gun synth bursts atop what we now know as a hip-hop groove. “Slippery People” is another apt title, and “I Get Wild/Wild Gravity” is equally rubbery.
The tempo finally slows, just a hair, for “Swamp” and its chant of a chorus, but it’s still catchy. “Moon Rocks” takes the disco to outer space, with a few of the third-world textures left over from their Eno era, and “Pull Up The Roots” adds a few chord changes to split up the rhythm. One of the most striking tracks arrives with “This Must Be The Place (Na├»ve Melody)”, which actually tries to present a structured song, and something of a love song at that.
There’s a lot of sameness throughout Speaking In Tongues, but it’s never boring. Each of the band members contributes greatly, even democratically to each track, and a handful of vocalists and extra musicians add to the sonic palette, but it never seems crowded. (The cassette had been dominating album sales for some time, and the tape version of this album offered extended versions of five songs for an extra six minutes of music; this did not apply to the compact disc for some time. When the album was reissued on CD in this century, it was in the DualDisc format, which housed DVD-formatted visual material on the opposite side of the audio portion, which included the extended versions as well as one outtake plus a new mix of “Burning Down The House”.)

Talking Heads Speaking In Tongues (1983)—3
2006 DualDisc: same as 1983, plus 2 extra tracks

1 comment:

  1. Un soi-disant docteurMay 31, 2019 at 4:34 AM

    "....proving that David Byrne might have actually listed to...."

    I know he (leans!) towards odd dance-moves but 'The Tilt' never caught on.