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Talking Heads Fear of Music album cover
3.77 | 157 ratings | 12 reviews | 32% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1979

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. I Zimbra (3:06)
2. Mind (4:13)
3. Paper (2:36)
4. Cities (4:05)
5. Life During Wartime (3:41)
6. Memories Can't Wait (3:30)
7. Air (3:33)
8. Heaven (4:01)
9. Animals (3:29)
10. Electric Guitar (2:59)
11. Drugs (5:13)

Total Time 40:26

Bonus tracks on 2006 remaster:
12. Dancing for Money (unfinished outtake) (2:42)
13. Life During Wartime (alternate version) (4:07)
14. Cities (alternate version) (5:30)
15. Mind (alternate version) (4:26)

DVD-Video1 Cities (5:14)
DVD-Video2 I Zimbra (4:05)

Line-up / Musicians

- David Byrne / vocals, guitar
- Jerry Harrison / guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
- Tina Weymouth / bass
- Chris Frantz / drums, percussion

- Brian Eno / backing vocals (1), treatments, co-producer
- Julie Last / backing vocals (1)
- The Sweetbreathes (Laura, Tina & Lani Weymouth) / backing vocals (7)
- Robert Fripp / guitar (1,13)
- Gene Wilder / congas (1,5)
- Ariane Daniela Forster / congas (1,5)
- Hassam Ramzy / surdo (1)
- Abdou M'Boup / djembe & talking drum (1)
- Assane Thiam / percussion (1)

Releases information

Artwork: Jerry Harrison

LP Sire ‎- SRK 6076 (1979, US)

CD Sire ‎- 6076-2 (1984, US)
CD Rhino Records ‎- R2 76451 (2006, US) Hybrid Disc w/ 4 bonus tracks on CD side (remastered by Andy Zax) plus 2 Videos (German TV 1980) on DVD side, which consists of HiRes Stereo & Surround mixes

Thanks to Snow Dog for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy TALKING HEADS Fear of Music Music

TALKING HEADS Fear of Music ratings distribution

(157 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(32%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (17%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

TALKING HEADS Fear of Music reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars good pop/rock band , but absolutely NOTHING PROG, no matter what some would have you believe !!!

Despite the very minimalist black artwork and its misleading title (unless you felt that their pop was "music"), Fear Of Music was another small revolution in the pop-rock market, although this old curmudgeon isn't sure it was really moving in the good direction for his tastes, but the majority did and TH albums certainly help change the face of music, although not necessarily in a positive way, given the awful 80's decade's pop soundscapes. A series of short songs max4-mins, except for the closer), which contrasts heavily with their following album, giving it a very new-wavish and post-punkish feel, a typical Brian Eno pop production of the era, often strongly influenced by the crummy Roxy Music period (post FYPleasure album).

Opening on the Zimbra, an African rhythm-laced pop track, FOM was a rather unsettling and fairly groundbreaking album (considering the pop scene of those days), a collection of inventive but bizarre pop tunes that either attracted or repelled you. Most people will remember Life During Wartime for its anti-disco message, but it certainly was not enough for this teenager's wariness to wane. Some tracks are however cringey and even painful to my eardrums, like Mind, while others leave me rather cold (Paper, Cities, Animals and more), but on the whole the weird tracks glide by without much passion (from this auditor or from the auditees), as it sounds like the group was mostly going through the motions on this half-baked "effort".

The deluxe double-disc remastered version include an unfinished (and still instrumental) studio tracks from the album sessions, plus a couple alternate takes on the first disc, and the second disc is a mixed audio/video DVD, where the original album gets a 5.1 audio mix and two concert RIL album pieces with the group's expanded line-up (including Zap/Crimhead Belew) of the following year on a German TV showcase. Definitely not a big fan of this album (personally I think it is a step backwards from MSAF&B), FOM is really best saved for a second batch of acquisition, once you've discovered the following albums, which are much more fitting of the prog-related label that they were more worthy of.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The first sounds of I Zimbra really makes you wonder if it's actually Talking Heads you're listening to. I guess it only proves that there is never a time to stop experimenting for David Byrne and his band! Only after a few revisits of Fear Of Music it becomes clear that this album is a drop in quality compared to the two previous and its follow up releases. Still, this doesn't mean that it hasn't got its share of excellent moments, this was after all the period where Talking Heads could do nothing wrong!

The foreign sounds of I Zimbra was just something we would have to get used to since it was an important cornerstone that paved way for Remain In Light, only a year later! I'm still debating on whether the band chose to experiment with new sounds and beats because of the obvious drop into the songwriting department, most notable on tracks like Mind, or if this drop was a direct result of the experimentation. Whatever the answer is, there's really no denying that songs like Memories Can't Wait and especially Electric Guitar are just not as memorable as Talking Heads' earlier material and covering these flaws in layers of effects doesn't make it better.

There are a few definite rays of sunlight like the concert favorites Cities and Life During Wartime, plus I'm a huge sucker for melodic hooks like the one depicted on Air. Heaven is also a nice track that is only ruined by the idea that nothing really happens here! The rest of the material is neither hit nor miss and keeps up the flow quite nicely while we wait for some of the biggest highlights.

Overall, Fear Of Music is a drop in quality compared to the other three out of Talking Heads' first four albums. Still, thanks to the fact that all of the other releases are either masterpieces or on the verge of being just that, this release is merely an excellent album, which is something that is an achievement in itself and shows that Talking Heads were pretty much unstoppable back then!

***** star songs: Cities (4:14) Life During Wartime (3:41) Air (3:34)

**** star songs: I Zimbra (3:09) Paper (2:39) Memories Can't Wait (3:30) Heaven (4:01) Animals (3:30) Drugs (5:15)

*** star songs: Mind (4:12) Electric Guitar (3:01)

Review by tarkus1980
5 stars In order to make the best Heads studio album ever, Byrne, Eno and Co. had to first experience a blinding flash of the obvious. "Hey, you know how David's singing and lyrics are always described as 'paranoid' by everybody? Maybe we should make an album that's all about being paranoid about various things!" The end result of this epiphany is a darker, more disturbing and less playful version of Talking Heads' already established instrumental texture, combined with Eno's atmospheric brilliance, and easily one of my favorite New Wave albums of all time.

The bulk of the album consists of tracks with one-word titles, each of which features Byrne expounding on that particular object from the point of view of somebody who, at the least, is somewhat wary of it, and at most is completely stark raving insane about it. Sometimes it's not so obvious that the song itself reflects a fear of the object - "Mind," for instance, is just David trying to figure out how to change the mind of the person he's singing to regarding something or other, and doesn't explicitly fit into the eyelid twitching of much of the rest of the album. On the other hand, the way the song moves from its cheery opening musical theme to that theme complimented by some surprisingly strident growling guitars and weird effects on Byrne's voice as he sings "miiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnd" seem to show somebody a little unstable in the head, so that kinda works. Ah well, the song is perfectly lovely whether it more or less fits the album's concept or not.

After that, though, things start to get strange - come on, when was the last time you ever heard a paranoid, catchy, rambling moody track about paper of all things? What David is trying to say exactly in this track is totally beyond me, whether he sees how light passes through paper as an analogy for his relationships with other people or whatever, but it doesn't really matter - the guitars on this track are simply glorious, taking the More Songs revolution and pushing it one step further towards interesting complexity. Just when you think the "fear of ___" concept isn't really holding muster that well, though, we come to the glorious "Cities." All sorts of crazy complaints can be found here, from obvious paranoid lunatic digs like "It's dark, dark in the daytime. The people sleep, sleep in the daytime if they want to! If they want to!" to more sarcastic ones like "Look over there!... A dry ice factory! A good place to get some thinking done," all over the band's paranoid rhythmic mastery over Eno's moody electric piano. And sheesh, that chorus, those one liners ("Did I forget to mention, forget to mention Memphis? Home of Elvis and the ancient Greeks!"), all found in one track...

I'm not sure it necessarily gets better from this point on out, but it's definitely on the same level at worst (this album is VERY consistent). "Life During Wartime" doesn't fit the one-word pattern, obviously, but David's paranoia is in full display nonetheless - lines like, "I changed my hairstyle so many times now I don't know what I look like!" are the norm, and his laments about not being able to lead a "normal" life during this time are contrasted disturbingly well by one of the most perfect dancable grooves I've ever heard in my life. "Memories Can't Wait" is even more disturbing, though, if only because David's paranoia is made even more intense by the menacing, echoey effects placed on the underpinning instrumental tracks and, er, Eno-tronics. Plus, there's just something so cool to me about the way David sings the "I'm sleeping, I'm flat on my BACK" line, with the back line sung with so much emphasis that it seems like his back will be pinned to the ground for the rest of eternity.

Just when it seems the band is getting into an unescapable gloomy rut, though, they come back with some paranoid tracks of a more mellow nature. David has suddenly decided he has something against "Air," of all things, but the band deals with it in such a way so that it seems like he's dealing more with a gentle breeze than an angry hurricane - the "air...air" backing vocals and the chorus should make it clear that this is meant to be pretty more than anything else. Who knows, maybe he's just afraid of air not protecting him from UV like it's supposed to ... Anyway, "Heaven" is up next, and it's glorious, a terrific parody (in the opinion of my brother and me) of David Bowie's plastic soul ballads from earlier in the decade. The great thing about it is that it captures so perfectly one of the downsides of most Christian religious teachings - they make heaven seem so boring!!! Sure, it's a nice place and all, but who really wants it when "Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens"? The major-league feeling of prozac in the music helps too - I can just see David and everybody around him with big, empty smiles on their faces.

The absolute pinnacle for me, though, is "Animals." Yes, it's largely the "novelty" song of the album, so most reviewers have too much dignity to call it their favorite of the album. Screw dignity! Nobody needs dignity when David is bellowing in an over-over-over the top voice about how "Animals think ... they UNDERSTAND! To trust in them, a BIG MISTAKE! ANIMALS WANT TO CHANGE MY LIFE - I WILL IGNORE ANIMALS' ADVICE!" Or when he bellows "I know the animals ... ARE LAUGHING AT US!! THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW ... WHAT A JOKE IS!" Or especially when he enters that GLORIOUS Eno-processed vocal groove at the end, where he starts growling non-stop such brilliant lines as "You know animals are hairy? They're living on nuts and berries!" Come on, people, recognize the greatest philosophical treatise in the history of mankind when you see it! "ANIMALS THINK ... THEY'RE PRETTY SMART ... SHIT ON THE GROUND ... SEE IN THE DARK!"

The last two tracks are a slight letdown from the rest of the album, but not too badly. The biggest problem with "Electric Guitar," aside from dragging a bit, is that it's extremely difficult to figure out not just what David's problem is, but also whether he's pro-guitar or anti-guitar in the song. Still, the music is pretty cool, even if the vocals are too disturbing for my tastes. One could also complain about the closing "Drugs," if only because it's the longest track on the album and extremely lethargic at the same time. On the other hand, I love that atmosphere, as parts like the "And all I see is little DOTSDOTSDOTSDOTSDOTSDOTS" line and the shaking backing guitar lines create a "drugged out of my mind" mood as well as, I dunno, the Stones' "Sister Morphine." Good ole Eno.

Ooooh, and don't forget the album opener, even though it may as well belong to a different album. "I Zimbra" is largely the foundation of the following Remain in Light, as it's their first excursion into World Beat music, as well as a foundation for King Crimson's Discipline (that's not surprising, though - guess who plays that bizarre guitar part that makes the song into a classic? Yup, Robert Fripp!). Nonsense group vocals, "ethnic" guitar rhythms and drumming polyrhythms all combine here into a bizarre dose of butt-shakitude. And don't forget Tina Weymouth's bass, where she proves just how much can be done to set a groove while playing an extremely small number of notes.

So there's your album. Lots of people have trouble getting into this one, largely because it's so dark and somber and moody compared with the albums bookending it, but as somebody who loved this album on first listen, I must insist that this is worth further efforts. It just requires you, the listener, to think outside the regular adjectives usually ascribed to the band ("quirky," "ethnic," "bouncy" etc).

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "I Zimbra" immediately gives any TH enthusaist the clue that their sound was a new one. Sure it is probably the most different track on the album but it definitely set the trend with strong percussion arrangements for the following two studio albums.

Fear Of Music was a very bold move by the band, a catalyst for their best future works to reach fruition and many will say that this is their best album. Hard to argue really although this reviewer feels that while it is an incredible work a couple of songs let the album down just a little. Namely the minimialist " Drugs", if ever there was a song to put you off drugs, this may have been it, I always felt Byrne did not need any anyway :-) and the mess around " Paper", which although has inane lyrics they are true! The album bears the characteristic of great crossover themes and some excellent guitar contributions from Robert Fripp. The albums reminds me at times of a nasty dog snarling and gnashing it's teeth trying to get up on all fours, it definitely has a dark side and it lies smack bang in the middle of TH's musical evolution or in this case, revolution. " Heaven" has some awesome lyrics like .." Heaven is a place, where nothing, nothing ever happens...", " Cities" one of the highlights showing that being urban is cool so get over it " Animals" a tongue in cheek below the belt aim at human behaviors again.' Air" has some great vocals by Tina Weymouth too and " Life During Wartime" it a classic TH release.

If you had the vinyl version it also came with a live 45' of " Cities", which became one of their biggest hits of the record. An excellent album, not quite their best but none of their best works would have happened had this monster not been released.

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars The year was 1979 and things were afoot.

Not least of which was this album that was originally released with a cover textured like a slip-resistant steel tread.

Both Brian Eno and now Robert Fripp had intersected the band and the result was quite good.

So as some of the usual suspects in progressive rock were fading, Talking Heads were on the rise.

It is an interesting assortment of songs, all short of course. Longer explorations would have to wait for the next album.

My favorite track and probably the proggiest: Drugs. "I feel like murder but that's alright."

Now available in remaster without a textured cover but you get bonus tracks a surround sound mix courtesy of Jerry and a couple of bonus videos.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I am a fan of (early) Talking Heads, but this release is less attractive for me between all their albums from 70-s.

As rule, the band has very their own sound and atmosphere, but there on this album the only two components are in place: Byrne's voice and band's characteristic African-like rhythm. Songs are simplified and could perfectly illustrate what " new wave" is all about (at the same time Talking Heads' best early albums really were kind of art-rock, or some electronic experiments).

Straight forward songs are real "simple music for simple people" even if band's standard was usually above such level. Still can listen this album, but to be honest everything sounds as one album-long song ( prepared from short pieces to make it even more accessible, if it's possible at all), kind of street -wise propaganda about nothing (history teaches us people like such kind of talks).

Musically least interesting Talking Heads album ,coming from 70-s. Still not total disaster though.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Brian Eno continues to lend production services to Talking Heads - and brings in Robert Fripp to contribute lead guitar to I Zimbra, a meeting of minds which surely helped coalesce the sound of the 1980s incarnation of King Crimson. These guest talents chime well with the increasingly experimental direction of the band's music, with David Byrne particularly focusing on the use of prominent rhythms in his compositions - ranging from the sort of traditional African rhythms previously combined with rock music by Osibisa to sleazy art-disco. ("This ain't no disco!" Byrne exclaims, but we know he's kidding.)

With cuts ranging from the energetic and danceable to the relaxing and laid-back (Heaven is a particularly wonderful example of the latter sort), Fear of Music shows the band's increased command of a range of styles, and proof positive that New Wave acts like the Heads could be just as progressive and experimental as their predecessors.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars To me, Talking Heads have always been a band that is fascinating. I have always found their music to be groundbreaking in a sense that they were taking the so called "new wave" music to a higher level. Unfortunately, a lot of bands at that time could not follow in their footsteps. They were stretching the boundaries of the music that would become popular in the 80s, and they took a lot of their inspiration seemingly from Bowie and Ferry. With the help of Brian Eno, they elevated their sound above and beyond the cookie cutter sound that the bands of that era were trying to make, usually only ending up with one song that would become a hit and then falling into obscurity.

There is a lot of people that would argue about their inclusion on the Archives. But those that say TH (and many others) don't belong here are not really understanding what the sub genre is that they are put under which is Prog Related. That term means that they are not prog, but they have some relationship to progressive music because of certain band members or because of the influence they had on progressive bands (and there is a long list of other reasons if you read the on the link in the PA header labeled in yellow "Prog Related" and you'll better understand why they and many other bands are included on PA).

So most of us know how TH is related to prog, but for those that don't just know that Adrian Belew played with TH for a while. He played for Frank Zappa for a short time (during the "Shiek Yerbouti" years) and with King Crimson for many years. Speaking of King Crimson, Robert Fripp (KCs creator and amazing guitarist) plays on this album, namely on "I Zimbra" which is the opener. This is a spirited opener with the rhythms based on a tribal rhythm which David Byrne would go on to explore more later. To me, the best TH songs are the ones with the straightforward "disco-like" beat. Now, I hate disco, I just want to make that clear. But it is those songs that I like best from TH. This particular album is built upon disco influenced rhythms and cinematic themescapes. But TH has been considered by many to be the anti-disco band, so go figure. I think the attractive thing to me is like I said previously, that they built upon the sounds that were prevalent at the time.

This particular album is pretty good, but has very little progressive music in it, so don't expect that. But you will hear some original sounds and timbres and explorations. This is what makes the band fascinating to me. They took quite a risk with messing around with the popular sound of their day, but it worked for them. They are one of the few really respected "new wave" movement bands that are around and currently still respected. When I find a band that beats the odds like this, I am interested in what made them that way. This shows a lot more in this album as TH searches and in this album, finds their sound. The originality and the way the pushed the barriers of the 80s new wave movement gives me respect for them. I don't consider them one of my favorites, but I do respect them and enjoy their upbeat music (especially the live album "Stop Making Sense") when I am in that kind of mood. Overall, I can't really seem to give this album more the 3 stars even though there are a few excellent songs here, I tend to lose interest in the album before it reaches the last 3 or 4 songs. It always starts strong for me, but weakens through the last half of the album.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars In these late seventies, I was quiete into what was called the ''New Wave'' with several bands I have already lentioned in my earlier reviews. ''Talking Heads'' was one of them.

Since I really was charmed by their previous effort, there was no question about buying this one. Just until I heard ''I Zimbra''. The type of song I can't stand. Funky as crazy, absolutely no melody and every Fripp can't make it better. Another of this type will be featured later on this work (''Animals''). The lyrics though are rather disrespective about the animals in general. I don't aprreciate this.

Some excerpts : '' They say they don't need money, They're lvinign on nuts and berries, They say animals don't worry, You know animals are hairy? What the hell does this last sentence mean ? And this one '' They're never there when you need them, They never come when you call them''. So untrue.

Fortunately, my ''TH'' comes back with the next two tracks ''Mind'' and ''Papers'' which could have sit on their previous release (but not as highlights). Still, ''Papers'' is one of my fave here. The beat and the song construction is typical and it is a good feeling to listen to such pleasant track.

Hopefully, ''Cities'' is of the same vein. Actually, I was a bit worried when starting my review. My souvenir of this work was not excellent (to say the least). And since it must be some 35 years that I didn't listen to it, my memory didn't serve me well. Of course, there won't be many great songs featured here, unlike on their great ''More Songs''; but if you except the opener, so far this album is enjoyable.

''Life During Wartime'' is a little harder than usual (maybe the theme?). There's a blink to the famous CBGB where they played as early as 75. The lyrics though are rather incoherent and jumps cahotically from one subject to another.

My fave by far here is when I fully embrace the band again with the very catchy ''Air''. Same ingredients as before (rhtym, melody). A classic should I say.

I guess that the band wanted to make another ''Big Country'' while they play ''Heaven''. Even if it is not of the caliber of this great predecessor, I have to admit that it is quite a fine melodic song (but Byrne is of course a good songwriter).

The end of this album is less catchy and interesting to my ears. The closing ''Drug'' is rather dark (but with such a theme?).

This album holds of course no prog related music. According to my standards, I catalogued ''Talking Heads'' in 1977 as a New Wave band. And there is no reason to change this.

Three stars.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Fear of music is the third album by the band Talking Heads. The album continued the collaboration with Brian Eno. Fear of music further evolved the band by adding in funk and disco elements into their artsy new wave pop/rock sound. The album is personally one of my favorites by the band because ... (read more)

Report this review (#2447597) | Posted by progtime1234567 | Sunday, September 13, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In 1980, Talking Heads were on the rise. With two fairly successful albums already out, they released thier third album, "Fear of Music". It was even more creative and innovative than the last album, and is also thier second with producer Brain Eno. The album begins with "I Zimbra", which is he ... (read more)

Report this review (#767955) | Posted by smartpatrol | Saturday, June 9, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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 tha ... (read more)

Report this review (#613523) | Posted by Dayvenkirq | Thursday, January 19, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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