Saturday, June 6, 2009
T - Talking Heads - "'77"
I have all the Talking Heads albums up through 1985’s “Little Creatures”, though I’ve never been much of a fan. Like a lot of my generation, I first experienced the Talking Heads by watching David Byrne spazz out during videos (“Once in a Lifetime” may very well be the greatest video of all time – even today). The problem is, the music didn’t really interest me as much as the videos did. Take away the visuals, and what’s left? Vinyl that sits unplayed for years on end.
I figured this would be my favorite Heads’ album, primarily because it was recorded while they were still CBGB’s regulars. Their ties to the New York punk roots were severed very quickly, so I figured there would at least be some energy in these recordings. Nope. There’s a lot of TENSION, which may have been their most notable feature, especially before Jerry Harrison (formerly of the Modern Lovers) joined, because there’s so much minimalism – no one seems to be doing ANYTHING. And David is singing away like a frightened chicken – it’s a bizarre sound, no doubt about it. It isn’t very attractive. Or entertaining. Almost like the guy on the street corner who’s just standing there, but has a nervous jittery quality that makes you want to roll your windows up and avoid eye contact, then feel badly about doing so.
Well, I don’t listen to music to feel guilty – so many other avenues in life provide that particular pleasure. I do like that, as a band, the Talking Heads are flat out dorks. At least at first – once they started celebrating their nerdiness, it became more of gimmick, and nowhere as entertaining or real. I like a lot of the simplicity; a quality they seemed to cast off once David & Brian Eno became buddies. Any charm they had dissipated in record time, usually before the record even ended.
As for this record, not until the last song on side one (“No Compassion”) is there anything worth listening to again. David Byrne was an absolutely obnoxious singer, and he made the stupid lyrics sound annoying as well. The last two songs on the record (“Psycho Killer”, “Pulled Up”) FINALLY provide some sign of life, at least ending on a high (or at least medium) note. A nice touch is the use of xylophone throughout the album, but that’s kinda grasping for straws.
Verdict: well, maybe the addition of Eno did make the band better after all.