by Yonah Paley
To some degree, musicians (and artists in general) have proclivities for thinking outside the box. After all, good songwriting involves expressing abstract feelings and thoughts to the listener, in a compelling manner. Talking Heads is unique in its musical vision, because of how it thinks outside the box. David Byrne’s lyrics are less concerned about specific ideas, than they are about the nature of ideas. Unlike most lyricists, he writes two or three steps removed from his subject matter. Rather than taking close-up looks at the world, he views it through mental binoculars. The distance between the music and real life creates a captivating sense of alienation, that somehow manages to be rhythmic and funky at the same time.
I only begrudgingly call Byrne the band’s frontman, because he is aided by a slew of tremendous musical talent. Drummer Chris Frantz, bassist Tina Weymouth, and keyboardist/guitarist Jerry Harrison are heavily important to Talking Heads’ overall sound. The band’s three collaborations with Brian Eno, are among the greatest joint efforts in production history. Finally, while we will only be discussing their studio albums in detail, Talking Heads is an incredible stage act. I highly recommend watching the sublime concert film Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme, and listening to the live album, The Name of This Band is Talking Heads.
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