on 2 February 2011
A third of a century ago four artists created their first album; the result, Talking Heads:77 is a fabulous, uncut, unpolished diamond of a recording. The sounds are those of the age, punk, pop and rock but the genius of David Byrne et al ensure that this is totally unlike anything else from its day. Byrne's lyrics are painted on a melodious canvas of deceptive complexity. Chris Frantz's percussion stands out, but all four members perform superbly both as individuals and as a unit. The later Brian Eno produced albums are wonderful, but Talking Heads:77 has a purity and innocence that has been produced out of the later work. You will not regret investing a few of your English pounds in this masterpiece!
It's quite odd (I would contend) to think now of this marvellous Talking Heads' debut album in the vein of 'New York punk' (or maybe NY new wave), the genre with which it was initially associated. Although I guess if you think about it, of the other three classic albums (allegedly) from this genre (and period) namely The Ramones debut, Patti Smith's Horses and Television's Marquee Moon, it's really only the former that fits (or probably defines) the 'punk' label. Without wanting in any way to belittle what is (for me) the most important musical movement (certainly of my life-time), the non-Ramones albums here actually reveal a particularly diverse set of influences, ranging from proto-punk, art rock, pop, psychedelia and jazz, all with a poetic tinge.
Looking specifically at 77, whilst (Dumbarton's finest) David Byrne & Co., probably do not (for me) in this album represent quite the level of musical invention of the Television or Patti Smith albums, their predominantly whimsical and idiosyncratic form of pop music is nevertheless quite unlike much of what preceded it (although the Jonathan Richman influence is clear - indeed the Heads inherited keyboardist Jerry Harrison from Richman's band), and is given a particularly unique character as a result of Byrne's distinct, quirky vocal style. Byrne's songs here often take a positive (frequently romantic) outlook on life, none more so than on opener, the vibrant Uh - Oh, Love Comes To Town, and maintain a similar mood on the heavenly Happy Day, the pulsating and effervescent Who Is It? and First Week/Last Week....Carefree.
A slightly greater degree of contemplation is evident on (one of my particular favourites) Tentative Decisions, a sharply ironic take on the battle of the sexes, and featuring its anthemic chorus, all to Chris Frantz's marching drum beat. Similarly, each of The Book I Read and Don't Worry About The Government display infectious melodies and rhythm and feature Byrne's positively-themed vocals at their most distinctive (falsetto and vibrato). On the other hand, No Compassion takes a starker, less optimistic view of the modern human condition, with its Woody Allen-like take on life ('Go talk to your analyst, isn't that what he's paid for?), and is structurally one of the more complex songs here with its two-speed pacing. For me, however, 77 saves the best until last, finishing with two other favourites in the throbbing beat of Psycho Killer and its novel insights into the mind of an (apparent) madman, whilst closer Pulled Up never lets up with its infectious rhythm and riffs, and its story of the potential impact of parental influence on youthful ambition.
An album which I hadn't listened to for ages, but which on recent playing (almost) surprised me with its levels of vibrancy and innovation.
on 24 January 2006
I always loved this album from the first time of hearing New Feelings I was hooked> I did not hear it until there was a lot of fuss in the music press about the release of Fear of Music so I was not in there as a fan at the begining, however, I soon had the first three Talking Heads albums and bought each new one as it was released. They remained one of the few must have bands whose albums were always anticipated and snapped up. I did, however, feel rather let down by the CD transfer of the Talking Heads albums so I am delighted to say that the situation has now been rectified with knobs on. The graphics on the DVD of 77 are a bit more Punk (in a way that has not dated well) than the subsequent albums and the quality of the videos is rather poor even the bonus tracks are not really worth having here (which is not the case on the other albums) but the sound quality of the CD and DVDA are brilliant! If you liked this in the 70s/80s and wonder if it is worth another listen then buy it,you will be rewarded with an album that still sounds fresh and more vibrant than before due to the excellent rematering; if you are yonger and want to know what all the fuss is about then buy it! Good music does not die it only get burried alive by careless record companies. Thank goodness these albums have been dug up again and can been heard and seen in their full glory. Well done all involved.
on 25 August 2009
If this is not the greatest debut album of all time then it is certainly the most interesting.
The Talking Heads went onto make (perhaps) better and more sophisticated albums than this with Brian Eno but for me 77 is still their most charming.
Wonderfully idiosyncratic and full of the most eccentric lyrics (Most famously the french speaking Pyscho killer)
The album (much like it's lead singer, David Byrne) twitches with life.
on 5 November 2011
'no compassion' has to be my favourite track here - but all the other songs are fine.And to quote Bill Bailey 'David Byrne could come up to me and push me over - and I wouldn't mind'. All the positives about this album have pretty much been said, and it is totally worth buying.Quirky,insightful and a little bit scary - but totally brilliant.
on 14 April 2006
I think Talking Heads first 4 albums all deserve 5 stars. If you listen to them in chronological order you can track the progress of one of popular music's most inventive and unique bands. Today this might be classed as powerpop, but there's so much more going on. It's not that i can't review all the tracks critically, its just i'm choosing not to. That's because this album is one of those rarities, that can and should be listened to all the way through from beginning to end. No filler in classic albums like this. Worth every penny.
on 3 July 2011
Even with the benefit of nearly 35 years hindsight Talking Heads debut album remains a deeply curious record and one which it is very easy to see why Eno became so absorbed in them. It's worth remembering how suspicious the CBGB crowd ( and other bands affiliated to these scene) were of them when they first appeared slotting in uncomfortably between Television's artful reconstruction of Rock n Roll, Blondie's 1960's girlgroup cuteness and The Ramones buzzsaw fury. David Byrne and fellow heads seemed to be young vacationing Republicans who had inadvertently got lost among the scuzz and sleaze of The Bowery when they were in fact looking for their Summer house in The Hamptons.
If the truth be told however Byrne and Co had a particular kinship with The Ramones and both would tour the UK together soon after the release of this debut album. Theirs was a shared interest in 'less is more' with Minimalism being at the core of their respective Arts. A further shared concern came across in the subject matter of many of their songs where mental instability and the hopeless search for comfort in an accelerated uncaring world came very much to the fore.
Talking Heads debut album is a masterpiece of minimalism and aggravated emotions. From the opener 'Uh-Oh Love Comes To Town' it's clear that a new rock agenda is being forged. What would be a straightforward love song in the hands of many others comes across here as something to be wary of with Byrne's narrator passionately imploring the subject of his desire to acknowledge his superiority in aspects of intellect, the songs that follow are just as quietly menacing, 'New Feeling' is next with the new feeling never properly expressed. 'Happy Day' comes across like The Carpenters if they had spent a period in a psych ward (it's interesting to note that The Carpenters were an acknowledged influence on David Byrne - how Punk Rock is that?). In old money side 1 ends with 'No Compassion' which I often imagine could have been on a certain Ted Bundy's Walkman during his contemporaneous reign of abject terror.
If anything the second half of this album is even more impressive with the gloriously skewed pop of 'The Book I Read' commencing proceedings followed by perhaps the overall highlight of 'Don't Worry About The Government', a song which is so far removed from the standard pop themes of the day it's astonishing. By the end of the song with it's beautiful aural Prozac melody you nevertheless find that you are intensely worried about the government. The album wraps up with the barely concealed psychosis of 'Pulled Up' which Byrne admitted was as much influenced by Norman Bates as the preceding bizarrely catchy 'Psycho Killer.'
A fantastic record then and one that lured Brian Eno to the Heads cause. The following Year's 'More Songs About Buildings And Food' was a refinement of this debut album albeit with less memorable tunes. Eno's presence was really felt on the two albums after this 1979's neurosis laden 'Fear of Music' and 1980's dazzling 'Remain In Light.' This debut however encapsulates many of David Byrne's preoccupations over the next few years or so and remains a very literate, intelligent pop record...just be sure not to step into the shower alone.