- Cullman, Alabama

April 3, 2011

Playback: Songs about ... Talking Heads

Album Review

By David Palmer
The Cullman Times

— Talking Heads came to life in the shadowy rubble of New York’s CBGB, where bands such as the Ramones found a welcoming audience.

But unlike the frontal assualt rampage of the Ramones or Dead Kennedys, Talking Heads came forward with a blend of sounds and a somewhat art-rock touch that proved attractive to a wide audience.

The Heads collaborated with Brian Eno on many of their recordings, which was a perfect match for the quirky, shifting sounds of their songs. Eno had built a specialty audience of his own with a careful crafting of keyboards and electronics. He contributed his sound into the records of Talking Heads and produced much of their work until the late ‘80s.

Led by David Byrne, the Heads concocted what many consider their breakthrough or definitive record with the release of “More Songs About Buildings and Food” on July 21, 1978. An energetic cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” produced a hit single, but it was songs like “Found a Job,” “Warning Sign” and “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” were classic Talking Heads. For the crowd that had generally given up on radio as a place to hear new music, this album was a hit and dominated college campus and young adult audiences.

Everything about “More Songs” worked well in the strange days of the late 1970s. Disco, like rap today, was widespread and annoying to anyone who appreciated creativity. Punk — and its derivatives — was the rebellion against forumula-based disco music. And it was also a sanctuary for the creative forces in art and music.

The emergence of Talking Heads grew into a satisfying experience for those who could no longer tolerate another Donna Summer song. The music was intelligent, bouncy, odd, and often carried a rhythm worthy of the dance floor.

The band lasted until 1991. They left behind a sound that seems timeless as it relied on elements of funk, punk, pop and hip hop. Like any good record, play it loud and play it often. This record just will not go away.

Too bad their days are finished. For modern audiences, Franz Ferdinand and The Cribs are samples of bands that owe a debt to the sound of the Talking Heads.