INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
College Music Journal NOVEMBER 10, 2000 - by Russ Novack
TALKING HEADS: FEAR OF MUSIC
Talking Heads is a band who I have always admired for their decidedly unique musical style and identity. Their third album, Fear Of Music, is their most technically complex, as well as the densest lyrically, of any of their endeavors. On a lyrical level, Fear Of Music reflects David Byrne's overwhelmingly paranoid view of the modern age, in which the most commonplace of objects looms threateningly overhead. Songs like the hypnotic Air display Byrne's view that even the most basic of all things we need to survive is waiting out there to do us damage: "Air ...Air / Hit me in the face / Air can hurt you, too." Fear Of Music's lyrics state Byrne's despair-ridden view of the world in the style of a computer print-out; his pronouncements are presented matter-of-factly, very much like a psychological laundry list - Animals, "To trust them is a big mistake;" Cities, "A lot of ghosts in a lot of houses;" Heaven, "A place where nothing ever happens." Are we then, as supposedly sensitive individuals, moved to any specific action? Byrne's own advice to the rest of us appears at the end of the energetic Life During Wartime: "Try to be careful / Don't take no chances / You better watch what you say." The sheer awesomeness of the sound of Fear Of Music is a result of Brian Eno adding his own unique methods of space-age production techniques. Eno's studio wizardry had very much enhanced the sound of the second Talking Heads album, More Songs About Buildings And Food, where his "treatments" were applied in a strikingly subtle manner. On Fear Of Music, Eno's influence is decidedly more pronounced, and the band's own unique musical persona is somewhat buried in a near avalanche of Eno-esque space-noises, electronic nonsense syllables, phase shifts, and the like. This is the major critical flaw, in this reviewer's opinion, of the album. However, there are a great many of those who would find Eno's work on this album to be a major asset. Fear Of Music is Talking Heads' most ambitious work to date and, although its lyrics are initially impenetrable, and its production very obtuse, it is a more than competent album which grows better and better after repeated listenings. Watch out!