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This review is from: Talking Heads: 77 [CD + DVDA] (Audio CD)
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.