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Talking Heads - Fear Of Music CD (album) cover


Talking Heads


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3.70 | 104 ratings

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4 stars I really don't know how long it would take an album to grow completely on me, and I don't want that to be the reason why I would never write a review. This is why the response you are reading right now is actually its most recent update. At this point the most important thing you need to know is that this album deserves a 4.5, not a 4.

There are some weaknesses visible to me. For about a week I used to think of this album as the most adequate of the first four efforts by this group. I really don't know how absent-minded I was when I thought that. It's not that adequate, really. It's somewhat inconsistent, compared to its notorious 1980 successor. Kind of like what "Nursery Cryme" is to "Selling England By The Pound" for me. Or almost like Nick Drake's "Five Leaves Left" to "Pink Moon."

Okay, the crenellations I wish the band could fill in: 'Mind' is monotonous (unless you dig that kind of insanity with a little play around the meters of the song), but the ending is real tight. The music on 'Heaven' is flat-out dull, but that's good only if the message is worth the user's focus. But that's not the case with this song. A couple of lines are pretty weak, the message is ambiguous (which is OK), though the meaning of it that I figured is commonsensical: we all have things that we prefer to keep as secrets, no matter how "happy" we are. However, that's pretty good for a little cryptic lyricism exercise, but I still deem that kind of approach as extraneous and mind-tampering. Basically, I just don't like the song. Also, the second half of 'Animals' sounds too idiosyncratic to be taken seriously; just heed the way Byrne sings and what he sings: "They say animals don't worry, they are living on nuts and berries." What?! ... What?! ... I know, bizarre, huh?! In other news, 'Life During Wartime' is slightly better than 'Heaven.' I think this would be a good introduction for my mother to the concept of identity crisis and being left behind. But then again, maybe not. A little humanitarian and educational, but only a diminutive bit. And I don't like the mundane main melody. It's not compelling in any way. To sum up, the song is worthless. At least it has a story and a catchy rhythm guitar "solo" in the middle. Hence the second star.

But hey, look on the bright side. 'I Zimbra' is simply tight, with nonsensical lyrics (which is OK), and it features Bobby Fripp himself on the guitar. I thought: "Wow, that's really weird - Robert Fripp running some excerpts for a post-punk group making a weird, "out-there" post-punk record with a black front cover. This babka will try just about anything." Of all the short, adequate songs on this slice of cheesecake, 'Paper' is the hottest spot. Please, don't snooze over the chorus. In the case of this group it seems that this is right where their rock-n'-roll lifeblood flows. It just gives me that impression that this is all rock-n'-roll really needs: a dumb muted rhythm executed on an electric guitar with a toxic tone. This is it! The tone of the guitar when it's muted. Two keywords: "tone" and "muted." That's it. A one-ingredient formula set to the chorus with Byrne's "desperate" vocal touches, and you got yourself a piece of art I would never sell if it was mine. Not even for the capital of the whole world. High five!

I did not like 'Memories Can't Wait' at first because it somehow reminded me of the contemporary alt-rock scene, and I'm allergic to almost anything contemporary. It sounded as if the band was trying to impress me with its intimidation without naturally being initimidating, using that corny dark chord progression for the first half of the chorus (oh yeah! The chorus is broken up musically into two, can you believe that? Art! Ask for more!) But then "disoriented" violins come in place, and it sounds almost like Faust's music. Over a certain period of time I've grown to appreciate the rhythm guitar work and the experimental-punky spirit of the song. And the point of the lyrics is crucial: about the awakening of conscience once the mistakes of the past come by.

Don't miss out on a couple more catchy songs here. 'Air' is Byrne's take on ecology, I suppose, which may be weird. But who cares? I like singing to it and I like the guitar solo at the end. My mother may call this kind of music unnatural, but it's OK with me as long as it sounds good. No trash here whatsoever. Oh, and 'Electric Guitar' is also something to salvage from public oblivion. I don't care what Byrne and other people may say about some of his lyrics being nonsensical; to me the lyrics of this ditty make sense to some extent. The guitar is probably a symbol for a voice of freedom or a handgun. Maybe it's a First-Amendment or anti-Second-Amendment song. So, the guitar is brought in to the court and "the judge and the jury, twelve members of the jury" inspect it and bring out the verdict: "Never listen to electric guitar" only to bring on later another verdict: "Someone controls the electric guitar." The line "Tune this electric guitar" totally makes sense in this context. And I like the way David sings the lyrics. I just like his voice in general, no matter how weird or mundane it might sound to you at first.

Last, but not least, 'Drugs' is an important and unique track on the album, almost completely on its own. Avantgarde that gets me. Visceral avantgarde, just mental avantgarde. Byrne wrote the words as if he actually had some personal drug abuse experiences. But it's not the words that are at my focal point every time I listen to the song. It's the music. The sounds. In the chorus it sounds as if the protagonist feels himself like in a jungle (think back to the intro of 'Close to the Edge', eh?), only without birds, but with a music that is usually used in Hollywood movies when a jungle scene pops up. But on 'Drugs' it's more than that. And it has a kind of an Oriental flavor to it. Weird, huh? But I dig that!

Oh, gees, the longest review I've written so far. Just keep in mind that this record helped me through college. (By the way, there is another guy on YouTube who had just the same college experience. And that guy is not me. Just a coincidence.) So, it's a kind of a mentally medical album. Or maybe it's a drug. But not a drag, that's for sure.

P.S. 'Cities' is good too. Not a "vital" track, but at least it's good for me having a party with myself ... you know, pacing back and forth, doing my air guitar bit and quietly imitating Byrne's singing ... as I almost always do.

'I Zimbra' - *****

'Mind' - ***

'Paper' - *****

'Cities' - ****

'Life During Wartime' - **

'Memories Can't Wait' - ****

'Air' - ****

'Heaven' - *

'Animals' - ***

'Electric Guitar' - ****

'Drugs' - *****

Bonus tracks:

'Dancing For Money (Unfinished Outtake)' - **** (who cares about the undeveloped lyrics anyway?)

'Cities' (alternate version) - ** (way too long)

Stamp: "Highly recommended" (it has been and it still is revolutionary and influential to me as a beginning musical artist in its few various ways.)

Dayvenkirq | 4/5 |


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