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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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4 stars For a New Wave album from 1980, REMAIN IN LIGHT actually sounds fresh in the 2010's. It's because the New Wave approach uses guitars that sound less punk and more funk, and it's near null in the keyboard/synth department. REMAIN IN LIGHT is a collective hybrid of styles from funk to Eno-esque soundscapes to their own brand of art-punk they had developed earlier in their career. The end result is what many critics have claimed is the Heads' critical peak, and the output here makes it easy to understand why.

REMAIN IN LIGHT is completely rhythm-based; it's all in establishing a groovy rhythm that is both complex and simple. The initial beat established early on in each song is rather simple and easy to dance to, but (especially on the A Side) there are melodies, instrumental themes, and such that are layered on top to give a building effect to the song without changing the rhythm in any way. But it all still revolves around the, ''if the first rhythm doesn't really sink in, then you're lost'' style of writing.

The instrumentation mostly zooms in on interlocking, contrasting guitar phrases (can't really call these things ''riffs'') and almost constant drum and percussion patterns. The actual use of keyboards are minimalist (as are most of the basslines), and the few euphoric guitar moments really are that thanks to Adrian Belew's well-timed squeals at peak moments in songs like ''The Great Curve''.

Sometimes, the band relies on false tension to grip the listener. ''Seen and Not Seen'' and ''The Overload'' have a climactic tension to them despite staying relatively constant for their respective durations. It's about keeping the listener intrigued as to what's going to happen later in the song since the rhythm is so interesting. It helps when two of the first three songs (''The Great Curve'', ''Born Under Punches'') take their last moments to interlock contrasting vocal melodies. There really isn't any obvious pop song in terms of structure other than ''Once in a Lifetime''. Songs like ''Houses in Motion'' and ''Crosseyed and Painless'' are great in terms of getting their respective choruses to incorporate so smoothly into the song that the listener is barely aware there's supposed to be a chorus happening.

REMAIN IN LIGHT has an old-fashioned Broadway style of writing to it in the way of making nearly every vocal line a memorable melody. The vocal parts that are more or less spaced out are extremely catchy and irresistible to sing along to. Try listening to ''The Great Curve'' again, and you'll have trouble deciding which harmony to take at the end of the song. Other than a slight clunker in ''Listening Wind'', REMAIN IN LIGHT really does hold true to being one of the best critically acclaimed albums in recorded history. One album worth figuring out what all the hype is about.

Sinusoid | 4/5 |


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