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The Music of Talking Heads

Reviewed by: 
Lou
Talking Heads

Art-rockers? Intellectual pop band? New wavers? Experimental funkateers? World-music popularizers? The music of Talking Heads delightfully encompasses those and many other hybrid categorizations.

 

From their formation in NYC in 1975 to their fractious dissolution in 1991 (three years after the release of their final album, Naked), the band's music was always evolving, bookended by the early twitchy and tightly-wound minimalist riffs and the expansive splendor of their polyrhythmic pulses and lush sonic palette. The focal point was David Byrne, the guitarist/vocalist/primary songwriter who combined an agitated stage presence with rather idiosyncratic vocals, and was vitally complemented by bassist Tina Weymouth, multi-instrumentalist Jerry Harrison, and drummer Chris Frantz (whose memoir, Remain In Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina, will be published in July by St. Martin's Press).

 

Their restless creativity powered engaging and idiosyncratic songs that stimulated the brain and the body. Talking Heads' ambitious work inspired U2 (who opened for them on a 1980 U.K. tour) and Radiohead (whose name came from a Heads song), and their influence can be heard in the widescreen works by LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, and Vampire Weekend. Talking Heads still sound as fresh—and essential—as they did when they debuted more than four decades ago.

 

Fun fact: Before moving to NYC in 1974, Byrne, Frantz, and Weymouth lived in Providence, R.I., and had a band called the Artistics.

Essential tracks: "Life During Wartime," "Once In a Lifetime," "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)"

Essential albums: Talking Heads: 77, Fear of Music, Remain In Light, Popular Favorites 1976-1992


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