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Saturday, April 16, 2011

3. Talking Heads: Speaking In Tongues


So many bands are making comebacks these days...and I'm surprised all the time by bands performing near me that claim to have never broken up (although I hadn't heard a peep from them in twenty years). I've been excited to see a few, but I usually let them roll through town without opening my wallet or calling the babysitter. However...I've been wishing on stars and on birthday candles...snapping turkey bones, chucking pennies into fountains, waiting around until the digital clock displays 11:11, and pulling eyelashes out of my face...all in the name of a Talking Heads reunion.

Speaking In Tongues (1983) is the fifth album by Talking Heads. It followed a two year hiatus, during which, each of the band members successfully went their separate ways. Upon returning to the studio, they recorded a great album that became overshadowed about a year later when its more famous cousin, the live/greatest hits package that is Stop Making Sense hit the market. Speaking In Tongues is an extremely fun party album. I'll admit that the previous sentence is meant for the 40-something reader as many younger readers might not agree. It was "club worthy" at the time ("Back in myyy day!"). It's filled with infectious African beats and nonsensical lyrics. David Byrne admits that, in general, the music was written, and the lyrics were simply created to fit.

It's incredibly surprising to me that this album's lead song, "Burning Down The House", is the only American Top 10 hit for the band. It's followed by "Making Flippy Floppy"...a relatively unknown song so good, it's almost as if "Burning Down The House" is its intro, and the album...starts...now. "Making Flippy Floppy" anchors the danceability of Speaking In Tongues and, in 1983, helped it cross over into new territory.  The album peaked at number two on the dance charts for six weeks. "Girlfriend Is Better" and "Slippery People" follow for a near perfect side one (that's in vinyl-speak).

The album closes with "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)", one of the most enjoyable songs to grace your eardrums. Interesting sidenote...I saw David Byrne in Portland years ago and the setlist was nearly nine tenths Talking Heads (I think 18 of the 21 songs were from Talking Heads...so I guess I'd be ok if they never reunited).  He closed the show with "This Must Be The Place", talking over the melody for nearly ten minutes about...Baltimore, where he spent much of his childhood, before breaking into the actual lyrics. This beautiful song receives much, much play in our house as it's one of Chelo's favorites as well. Need proof of its hypnotic powers?...Here's the video. Enjoy.

3 comments:

  1. Dig it! Dig it a lot!! I have to admit, I've never been much of a Talking Heads fan, but in recent years, thanks to a local (Woodstock) station, I've developed an appreciation for David Byrne's voice/style, in particular, a song I think is called "Nothing But Flowers."
    I didn't recognize the title of this song, but as I played the video, I immediately knew it as that "background/movie score-ish" song I've heard a million times. Thanks for making me pay attention to it. This is the perfect song to make me delve deeper into the band.
    OK, OK, I'll say it: I've typically been a fan of '80s pop music, never looking past the hits. I probably know more about music from the '40s than music from "our generation", but I want to get help. I'm sure there's some kind of support group I can attend for my problem:

    Me: "Hi, my name is Diane and I am a Casey Kasem following American Top 40 addict."

    Anonymous Attendees: "Hello Diane (clap softly.)

    Thank you for bringing this gem into focus for me.
    I find the cadence of David Byrnes voice very interesting, I don't know, it kind of draws me in. Typically, I'm attracted to a song because of the music first and the lyrics have always been secondary. I'll have to watch the video again to pay attention to the words, but the rhythm is hypnotic.
    I'm supposed to be going to work now, but more than likely I'll be investigating what Apple has in the way of Talking Heads, so in the morning when my Germans are angry because their donuts aren't ready yet, I'll blame you and direct them to your blog ;-)

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  2. Oh I appreciate you directing anyone to my blog...even angry Germans in need of coffee and donuts.

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  3. Hi, me again. I was way off on the David Byrne song I liked. It's called "Tiny Apocalypse".... which doesn't at all sound like "Nothing But Flowers"....way off indeed.

    OK seriously, I'm going to work now.

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