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Talking Heads Speaking In Tongues album cover
3.68 | 126 ratings | 4 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1983

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Burning Down The House (4:00)
2. Making Flippy Floppy (5:53)
3. Girlfriend Is Better (5:45)
4. Slippery People (5:03)
5. I Get Wild/Wild Gravity (5:14)
6. Swamp (5:09)
7. Moon Rocks (5:42)
8. Pull Up The Roots (5:08)
9. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (4:56)

Total time 46:50

Line-up / Musicians

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

- Alex Weir / guitar (2,6-8)
- Wally Badarou / synthesizer (1,6,9)
- Bernie Worrell / synthesizer (3)
- Richard Landry / saxophone (4)
- Lakshminarayana Shankar / violin (2)
- Steve Scales / percussion (1,7)
- Raphael Dejesus / percussion (4,5,8)
- David Van Tieghem / percussion (5,9)
- Nona Hendryx / backing vocals (4)
- Dollette McDonald / backing vocals (4)

Releases information

Artwork: David Byrne

LP Sire ‎- 9 23883-1 (1983, US)

CD Sire ‎- 9 23883-2 (1984, US)

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TALKING HEADS Speaking In Tongues ratings distribution

(126 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

TALKING HEADS Speaking In Tongues reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

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

With their fifth album, our Babbling Heads are on top of their game (bettering their previous RiL album) with the marvellous pop/rock masterpiece Speaking In Tongues, where they manage the rare feat to write an album-full of clever pop tunes that would climb the charts on a few occasions, yet still be sufficiently adventurous to interest the more discerning music fans. Still with the original quartet (even if the previous album had been extended as far as a nine-piece, many of whom return here), SiT was released more than two years after RiL, but the present retains much of its former direction, still under African influences, but now enlarging it to the Caribbeans.

Most likely if you were anywhere close to a radio around that early 80's period, youi'll find that a good deal of this album quite familiar, because six of the album's nine tracks got regular airplay on the Hertzian channels. Opening on the chart-busting Burning Down The House (with its companion videoclip, a hit on MTV) epitomizes the album's excellent pop formula with plenty of minor innovations and small finds, such as Frantz's brilliant drumming and the descending drum rolls during the instrumental breaks. Flippy Floppy would be a stand out track on any other SH album, but here it pales a bit, especially that the whole first side of the album is filled with very catchy tunes like dancey Girlfiend, the jumpy Slippery People (with those superb enhanced chorus vocals), and the lower-profile Wild Gravity.

The flipside is a tad less familiar, even if it opens with the disturbing (and slightly slimy) Swamp and those chilling chorus, reminiscent of a sinister Reich (enhanced on stage with a martial military march). Brilliant stuff. Moon Rocks is less immediate as the fake Caribbean steel drums are too repetitive and irritate (a bit) by the fourth of the five minutes. Pull up The roots has awful synth sounds of the early and mid-80's, Frantz probably being absent that day to prevent these from happening. The album closing Place (Na´ve Melody) is a much smoother tune, which returns a bit to Caribbean1 rhythms.

SiT was the only vinyl I ever owned from the TH, so I had to borrow all f the previous album to review them and fell onto the remastered double versions with a 5.1 DVD plus clips, but I haven't found this one getting the same treatment, which would be a shame if it didn't. An outstanding pop album whose content which would fill much of the SH's future film project, the absolutely wonderful Stop Making Sense movie by Jonathan Demme and become the group's career-defining icon. Sadly though, this album and that movie would have the TH reaching their apex, but finding it impossible to main on top, and the group would slowly lose its momentum and suffer from internal frictions, as well as the Frantz/Weymouth hubby and wife team's increased involvement in the Tom Tom Club side project. Be warned though, that no matter how brilliant a pop album this might be, it's nothing "prog", despite its presence on our ProgArchives.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Three years after the release of Remain In Light, Talking Heads finally returned to the studio and recorded the album that their new fan base was so eagerly awaiting. Unfortunately the band played it safe with Speaking In Tongues without pushing the band's sound even further into the direction that was paved by its predecessor.

It gets pretty clear from the first soft tones of Burning Down The House that this album is not going to be another Remain In Light since the groove has clearly taken over most of the space that was previously occupied by off-the-wall experimental approach. Making Flippy Floppy starts almost like Born Under Punches, but soon transforms into another timid performance that lacks anything that can resemble quality songwriting. Girlfriend Is Better slightly more interesting since it plays its hand straight without trying to do anything beyond the straightforward tune that it actually is.

After a performance of Slippery People, which wouldn't even make it as a b-side on Remain In Light, things get more interesting with the funky groove of I Get Wild/Wild Gravity, but Swarm quickly returns the music back to basics. I really like the main beat of Moon Rocks and the synthesizer sounds during the chorus sections, but there is no denying that this is a pretty straightforward song even by Talking Heads standards. Pull Up The Roots might not be as bland as Making Flippy Floppy, still it's easily the second least memorable track of the album that is only here to fill out the album space. Finally This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) returns the material to the level of musicianship that perfectly merges the band's pop orientation and their experimental drive, with a clear and very memorable melody and an easily recognizable beat.

It's pretty clear that Speaking In Tongues is not one of my favorite Talking Heads albums. My main concern with this record is that the band were clearly playing it safe this time around with a definite nod at their newly established fan base. The next album would make this change even more clear, the only difference is that Little Creatures isn't pretending to be anything more than a pop album that it is.

**** star songs: Burning Down The House (4:02) Girlfriend Is Better (5:43) Slippery People (5:06) I Get Wild/Wild Gravity (5:17) Swamp (5:13) Moon Rocks (5:46) This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (4:56)

*** star songs: Making Flippy Floppy (5:54) Pull Up The Roots (5:10)

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Musically the band could not get tighter. Their combined efforts worked seamlessley from beginning to end. Speaking in Tongues is one of the finest albums to have been released in the 80's. Brian Eno had moved on but the band did not need him. The template for warm hypnotic percussion fills, frenzied guitar riffs and just awesome bass from Tina Weymouth makes this album an excellent statement for ' uplifting 1980's' music. Often the stigma around the 80's is that it has dated more readily than say the 70's decade. This could be true and Speaking In Tongues, if it has any floor has dated ever so slightly. But it would, because it is their most commercial release, their most danceable release. Therein lies that point. " Burning Down The House" starts the album off with incredible frenzied guitars, balzing synth work from Bernie Worrell. And Byrne at his best vocally too. In fact the session players on SIT is worth mentioning because if you always reflect on the best of times for any group, the guest musicians are of the highest calibre at their peak times, Nona Hendryx, Bernie Worrell, Lakshminarayana Shankar , Alex Weir, Steve Scales and the rest. " Making Flippy Floppy" is a great visual and aural work of art. Check David Byrne in his big suit on videos if you can. The energy and vibes are just awesome. " Girlfreind Is Better" is also an excellent single off the album with great synth work again. " Swamp" has Byrne at his most menacing and theatrical and the repetitive groove created makes this song one of the highlights on the album. Last but not least one of the nicest love songs ever written " This Must Be The Place ( Naive Melody)" has Byrne reaching out from the innermost depths of his soul, vulnerbale and beautiful. Lyrics like .." I'm just an animal looking for a home, share the same space for a minute or two and you love me till my heart stops love me till I'm dead...." says it all really.

Who says the 80's was a poor decade....pffft! Far from it. Four and a half stars.

Review by Chicapah
3 stars After putting out four full-length LPs in as many years the popular Talking Heads enterprise took three years off to recharge their flagging, tour-jaded batteries. While some fans were worried such a long hiatus might spell the end of the group, "Speaking in Tongues" quickly put such fears to rest. Electronic synth pop music was all the rage in 1983 but this brave outfit took it to another dimension due to their unabated pioneering spirit that kept them out on the cutting edge rather than becoming lost as an indefinable part of the mob. It was ensembles like Talking Heads that were just progressive enough to keep our beloved genre from disappearing beneath the tide of MTV- infected wannabes that flooded the music scene in the early 80s. All proggers owe them at least a modicum of gratitude for staying weird.

The record opens with the inimitable "Burning Down the House." It's an iconic tune that was able to successfully incorporate the more admirable aspects of the New Wave phenomenon without succumbing to its banality. Chris Frantz's roiling drum track and percussive synth injections give it an irresistible drive that's offset by ghostly incidental wafts of sounds and David Byrne's exaggerated vocals. The fact that it rose to #9 on the singles charts did wonders for the album's visibility and it still holds up today as a stunning piece of music. "Making Flippy Floppy" follows, a busy funk presentation augmented by a salvo of adventurous synth experimentations and unusual percussion instruments and/or effects. Another highlight of the album is "Girlfriend is Better." I so admire their dedication to establishing a strong foundational groove first, something extremely important too many of their peers were prone to overlook. This number has one that's a mile deep. David's highly individual vocal style adds to the track's undeniable mystique. "Slippery People" is next. While other New Wave acts were striving with all their might to be viewed as cute oddballs this band was happy to be wandering off on their own uncommercial tangent. Here they bring in an R&B spirit to flow atop a bubbly soundtrack, creating a decent meld of unexpected influences.

"I Get Wild - Wild Gravity" has a bit of a casual Ska feel to it that runs through the tune from beginning to end. There's a clean, minimalist mindset at work here I find intriguing, especially considering the stilted era it came out in. "Swamp" is one of the better cuts. It owns a loping shuffle that keeps things from becoming overly predictable and Byrne's half-spoken delivery creates a semi-bluesy atmosphere. Not run-of-the-mill fare by any means and I love the delicate bizarreness of it all. "Moon Rocks" marks the low point of the proceedings due to its ordinariness. It sounds as if they came up with a basic repeating pattern one night and then starting adding things along the way. It's not a deal-killer by any means but I can't find much to brag about it. They close with "Pull Up the Roots." It sports kind of a Prince-styled pop-ish rhythm that has the potential to become boring in a hurry but David's intertwining vocal lines on the chorus are inventive and they grant the song a certain distinction. Still, it falls a tad short of being remarkable.

"Speaking in Tongues" was released on May 31, 1983 and peaked at number 15. Not too shabby a showing after the quartet had been somewhat invisible for three years. It was also done without the production genius of Brian Eno (who had moved on to help mold U2 into an industry juggernaut). Standing on its own it's not going to blow any proggers away but when analyzed in the context of what was going on in music in 1983 it deserves to be afforded a certain amount of respect for its character alone. 3.2 stars.

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