Monday, March 28, 2011
Talking Heads: 77 - The Talking Heads
The Talking Heads
It was the New Wave that got me interested in modern music again after several years of obsessing over the 1960s. I didn't go for it right away. I heard the Ramones and thought they were silly (I've since changed my mind fortunately) and I thought the Sex Pistols were incompetent hucksters (changed my mind there too.) I was always lukewarm about punk, I was alienated by that scene for the most part. I liked the Clash, Elvis Costello and the Talking Heads, they were smart and had something to say. The Heads especially appealed to me - they looked like me and my friends and seemed more like college kids than rock stars. When I saw them on "Saturday Night Live" in 1979 performing "Take Me To The River," I became instantly smitten with them. I went out and bought this, their debut album, and Elvis Costello's "Armed Forces" which were my first foray into the New Wave. This album amazed me. It was probably the most avant-garde record I had ever heard, not musically but lyrically and conceptually. My taste was pretty mainstream, I had yet to hear the Velvet Underground or Roxy Music or the weirder side of David Bowie. I loved David Byrne's geeky persona and his seemingly normal yet off-kilter statements, I pored over the lyric sheet marveling at his inventiveness. "The Book I Read" was a song that seemed to come right out of my own head as if I'd written it myself (I wish.) I wasn't used to pop songs speaking so directly to my own feelings and experiences. Unlike most rock stars of the 1970s, I could relate to David Byrne. He had so many interesting observations and wrote about mundane topics in a fascinating way. What classic rock act could have come up with a song like "Don't Worry About the Government" in which Byrne sings an ode to the building he lives in and praises civil servants? That song astonished and delighted me when I first heard it. Though I can no longer hear it without thinking parody, "Psycho Killer" at the time impressed me greatly with its deranged point of view. "No Compassion" has some really funny lyrics - "they say compassion is a virtue, but I don't have the time" is one of my favorite lines. It also features some fun tempo changes like many of the songs on the record. I also particularly like the manic "Pulled Up," and the funky "Uh-Oh Love Comes To Town." I really dig Tina Weymouth's bass playing, I'm a sucker for a catchy bass hook and she whomps them out with the best of them. Most of the songs by the early Heads are driven by her. This album is so propulsive and compelling, it never quits. Smarts, goofiness, hooks and a big beat - that almost guarantees a record that will spend a lot of time on my turntable as this one has for 30 years. It is still where I go when I feel like hearing the Heads. Recommended for energetic nerds and twitchy art students.