Thursday, 9 May 2013

Top 102 Albums⁺ No 8 - Fear of Music

Top 102 Albums⁺ No 8
Fear of Music - Talking Heads
"They're setting a bad example
They have untroubled lives
They think everything's nice
They like to laugh at people
They're setting a bad example"

David Byrne's assumed Persona: a man so wound up he could shatter into pieces; uptight, the sort of guy who would consider it an act of crazed rebellion to loosen his tie and, god forbid, open the top button of his starched shirt; the sort of guy who could shovel coke up his nose and batter his partner while still considering himself the good guy.
Talking Heads music: funky metronomes, pulsing, fractured, guitar shaped pins to mount the voice as it is crushed between sheets of anxiety. Sound effects (Eno is involved, after all) as if we are in a movie. Perhaps we are. Woody Allen at his most Bergmanesque. Whatever, thirty years of listening haven't taken any of the gloss of this pristine, pulsating music. Kraftwerk with Bootsy Collins and Clyde Stubblefield.

What causes these geological layers of worry? Why - thinking (Mind), expression (Paper) , where to live (Cities), what to remember (Memories Can't Wait), breathing (Air), what animals think (Animals), music (Electric Guitar), consciousness (Drugs).... It doesn't get any more fundamental than this. The only time it relaxes is when "nothing happens at all" (Heaven). The other two songs Life During Wartime, and I Zimbra have always seemed to sit slightly outside the focussed core of this album, a core which forms one of the most most complete conceptual suites I know, with both music and words uniting in a minimalist masterpiece.

Minimalist, crushing, nervy - doesn't sound like much fun? Well, it's also danceable and FUNNY. There is reductio ad absurdum at work here, the pressures under which our salaryman operates are exaggerated, to say the least. "Some people say not to worry about the air / Some people never had experience with...      Air" He fears that humanity is being laughed at by the animals, and even worse they are undermining capitalism. How come McCarthy never picked up on these unAmerican activities?
"They say they don't need money / They're living on nuts and berries"
"They have untroubled lives / They think everything's nice
They like to laugh at people / They're setting a bad example"
God only knows what he'd have to say about "the lilies of the field." SUBVERSIVES!

And as for music: "An electric guitar is brought in to a court of law / The judge and the jury (twelve members of the jury) / All listening to records / This is a crime against the state / This is the verdict they reach: / Never listen to electric guitar"

In Cities the search for home, a city to live in, seems only to lead to disconnection, but again laced with humour.
 "Down el Paso way things get pretty spread out / People got no idea where in the world they are
They go up north and come back south / Still got no idea where in the world they are.
Did I forget to mention, to mention Memphis / Home of Elvis and the ancient greeks
Do I smell? I smell home cooking / It's only the river, it's only the river."

This Spotify playlist is my 'concentrated' Fear of Music. DON'T LISTEN TO IT!  But if you do, does anyone think Johnny Marr got any ideas from the opening of Memories Can't Wait?


  1. I like the stark pleasures of 'Little Creatures'. Mybe the cleaner sound was a commercial choice; they don't come more commercial than Road to Nowhere where Byrne's singing about a very different death than Nick Drake...
    The only other TH's that I possess is a compilation 'Sand in the Vaseline' which joins that dots but doesn't really linger in a time or place.
    Back to the source & Amazon it is...

    1. I stand over this one Trevor. A great band at their best. Remain in Light is great too. Love Listening Wind. And Speaking in Tongues.

  2. Dithered about and in the end somehow missed choosing a th lp even though somehow managed to find room for obviously inspired by arcade fire. Could have been this or the poppier follow up. Think both little creatures and speaking in tongues have great pop songs on but also one or two fillers. Ive even got a strange high liking for blind. Your are right re the perfect concept but remain in the light just nips it for me ,although ask me tomorrow.....!

  3. Great choice, Seamus. To quote Drugs, this album is pretty intense! From the CD reissue I see the first title for the LP they toyed with was "Where do correct ideas come from?" Thankfully they saw sense (this time).

    This Must be the Place would be in my top 10 songs. I think it is his first love song. I love the line "Sing in to my mouth"