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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 Remain in Light is a long way off from typical musical preferences of a prog listener and moi is no exception. While I don't insist on it, I like melodic and harmonic exploration and development and some amount of structural complexity. And while I can handle any amount of rasp, grit or fry in vocals, I have never been particularly fond of spoken word/rapping styles. Remain in Light does not answer to the former qualities and does instead possess a good amount of the latter; it is essentially rhythm music. And yet I love it!

Brian Eno seems to have exerted a powerful influence over the band and set them free to improvise and experiment. And it works because what this album has going for it is loads and loads of energy. It is more an exploration of sounds than of music in the conventional Western sense. That, and I repeat myself, may not be particularly appealing to all palates but it's not for want of trying. Talking Heads commit themselves firmly to their choices and go the whole hog. Rather than half baked attempts to mimic black music, Talking Heads explore the African way with a lot of sincerity. I cannot make out much of an attempt to appropriate African influences within the European norm though it does utilise a funk base in the first half and favours meandering psychedelia in the second.

Their energy especially helps in setting up an invigorating first half of funk rock in a new light (pun intended). From opener Born Under Punches to Once in a Lifetime, there is no let up at all as the music gets progressively faster up to The Great Curve. Adrian Belew plays guitar on the last mentioned track and 'echoes' of Discipline can quite clearly be heard. But the thrust of Talking Heads is more towards expression than complexity, so the results are somewhat different while equally engaging.

Houses in Motion acts as a bridge between the contrasting approach of the (literally) two sides of this album. It slows down the tempo but what an interesting beat that is! I am piqued by how similar the rhythm is to Carnatic music (while there is no hint of any melodic exposition in the track). Did this music inspire one A R Rahman to fuse Afro with Indian a decade later? Maybe!

Thereafter, the music slows right down and the optimism too begins to fade. I have tried listening to the last three tracks standalone and, barring Listening Wind, can barely make it through. But it works beautifully as the complement to the vibrant first half as the mood gets sinister and tense. As you'd imagine, there are some similarities to Peter Gabriel's work from roughly the same time (especially on Seen and Not Seen) and, once again, King Crimson (Sheltering Sky). Overload lives up to its name and gets a bit taxing but I am all ears anyway.

The recording sounds at once crisp enough for the rocking side of the album to make a dent and also lush enough to do justice to the wide array of sounds used on this album. The only thing that doesn't particularly appeal to me is Byrne's approach to the vocals but it seems mostly appropriate for the music and I will let it pass.

This music did not get me to like hip hop and maybe it won't in future either. But even though it is not exactly right up my alley, it speaks to me. Every time I listen afresh to Once in a Lifetime, it's like getting drenched in the rains for the first time in the season. No more words to waste, five stars for this New Wave masterpiece.

rogerthat | 5/5 |


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