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Talking Heads - Remain In Light CD (album) cover


Talking Heads


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4.19 | 233 ratings

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5 stars I have to be blunt - I do not enjoy this album as much as I do Fear (even if I give it the same 5-star rating; this is a 4.51 if ever there was one, while Fear is like a 4.7 to me). This is not a simple function of hearing Fear before this and thus having a preconceived notion of what the Head sound should be based on that album. Au contraire, I heard Light well before I heard Fear, but while I liked that album from the beginning, this took a looooooong time for me to appreciate. So sue me, it's because I came to Talking Heads largely from earlier music, and not from later - in other words, since my natural music inclinations are towards the periods before New Wave and not towards the periods after (this is not to say that I rank modern music below older music as a rule - I'm just saying what my gut leans towards), the traditionalist in me is better able to appreciate Fear and more likely to be scared of the bizarre po-mo leanings of Light.

But blast it, just because I don't instinctively love something doesn't mean I can't eventually come to enjoy and respect the heck out of it. This is a sonic masterpiece, with Eno and guest-guitarist Adrian Belew combining forces with the band to make a bunch of hypnotic grooves that prove that any sonic texture is possible if you can only imagine it. A review of the album upon its release made a statement to the effect that this album completely obliterated the boundary between "black" music and "white" music, and I have to say I largely agree with this. Remain in Light is indeed a massive shake-your-booty album (if you have some dancing creativity, that is), albeit moreso on side one than two, yet the amount of stuff happening on top of that dancable foundation would make any art-rock band proud.

I have to say, though, that it isn't really so much the Heads themselves that make this album so great for me. I mean, don't get me wrong, they're plenty great here - the guitar interplay in parts of this album is better than ever, the massive work on the part of the rhythm section cannot possibly be overrated, and David's omnipresent ramblings are just as spacey as ever (less coherent than on Music, though, which kinda makes me sad in some ways). On the other hand, though, what the band members themselves do on this album is just, well, them doing what they proved they could do on the first three albums. They may be doing it faster and better than before, yes, but it's still ultimately the same ole same ole high quality.

If you ask me where the distinguishing greatness of this album lies, it ultimately comes down to four capitalized words: Brian Eno, Adrian Belew. I don't really care how talented the band members were; many of the sounds and rhythms, with such jagged precision as they have, could not possibly exist in a "live" setup or even in the hands of most producers. All throughout, Eno basically takes the studio, bends it over on his knee, and makes it cry out, "Harder, daddy, harder!" as he spanks it for all it's worth. Of course, Eno's contributions are not just in producing - he's given a songwriting credit along with the band on all of the tracks, and his backing vocals are extremely prominent in more than a few places.

Ah man, and then there's Belew. That ultra-weird video-game morse-code solo thing in "Born Under Punches?" Belew! Those hellish, spacey guitar noises that pop up in "Crosseyed and Painless?" Belew! Those solos with that MASSIVE tone in "The Great Curve?" Belew! These are my favorite moments on the album! No wonder Fripp wanted Belew in the 80's King Crimson so badly!

Anyway, I feel bad that I've gotten this far into the review without describing in much detail the actual songs, but blast it, these aren't easy songs to describe - these are anthemic grooves!! Well, ok, there's one place where the repetitive groove kinda forms into a "normal" song, on the wonderful "Once in a Lifetime." Dave has one of his best rants, Eno and the band do a great job with the harmonies (I love love Eno's voice on this), it has all of these great "watery" effects to go with the watery lyrical content ... Man, this is great, even if I listened to this track with an extremely perplexed look the first time I heard it.

I'm also extremely fond of The Great Curve, not in the least because of Belew's aforementioned solos. However, this is only the final great part of an otherwise brilliant groove, one that can't help but get your foot tapping like mad for six+ minutes while backing vocals interact incredibly with the lead vocals with the guitars with the bass with the drums with the whatever. Oh man, this is beyond brilliant as far as "dance pop" goes - if your whole body isn't trying to move from the "World moves on a woman's hips" part onward, you're even more hopelessly honkified than I am.

The first two songs of the first side are also brilliant, but frankly I'm at a loss to describe them very well. Grooves that do everything imaginable based on those grooves in the time alotted them? That works, I guess. Anyway, the second side is the mellow side of the band on display, and while it's much more difficult to enjoy the tracks here than the other ones on first listen, they've grown on me plenty. Not that there's much to describe with them, unless I go into a majorly dissective mode with them. "Houses in Motion" is Byrne talking and singing over a hypnotic, proto-trance groove (with Byrne and Eno singing in tandem from time to time), "Seen but not Seen" is Byrne talking over a better, more Eno-synth-heavy groove, "Listening Wind" is a WONDERFUL mellow groove (with some GREAT atmospheric synths and that incredibly hypnotic "wind in my heart ..." chorus), and "The Overload" is ... wow, not really a groove. It's just a dark and scary atmosphere piece. It's creepier than "Drugs," if that helps at all.

As you can probably tell from the rather aborted description of the songs here, the biggest problem for me is that I can't really relate to this music, as cool as I think it sounds. If you're one of those consumers and/or makers of that beep-beep music the kids are calling electronica, though, this will probably be your Bible (not that this album is electronica per se, as the raw elements were played by human hands, but these elements are very very heavily manipulated). As for me, it's just a great album, and one that I like even more than I thought, but one that doesn't grab me quite like Fear of Music does. Ah well, that's my problem, I suppose.

tarkus1980 | 5/5 |


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