Crawdaddy FEBRUARY 2, 2011 - by Andres Jauregui


Due respect to Denise's pocket history of Talking Heads, but I've never particularly lost interest in Remain In Light. I admit that I flinched a little when my fellow critic opined that Fear Of Music is "more interesting" than one of my favorite albums of all time. But hey: Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks, right?

Not that I don't believe in Fear Of Music. I dig its underbelly of paranoia as much as I hate its album art. I'll acknowledge that song for song, it's a fantastic record. But Remain In Light has something more than just great songs. It has a vision.

Originally, that vision was to reclaim Talking Heads for the band. Rather than placing emphasis on David Byrne, the group went into the studio with the idea that the creative burden be shared. The inclusion of additional musicians on the record, as well as the recording methods and manipulations by Brian Eno, served in theory to decentralize the process and the music it produced.

Ironically, Byrne and Eno ended up famously hogging the credit on the album's sleeve, which naturally caused serious tensions within Talking Heads. But the fact of the matter is that Remain In Light isn't the sum total of two creative minds, or four, or however many people ended up working on it. Listening to it, one immediately realizes how much larger the final product is.

Take Born Under Punches for example. Its enjambed rhythms collide with a succession of vocal mantras, call-and-response motifs and a wild guitar solo by Adrian Belew. It is complete order giving off an illusion of total chaos. The Listening Wind on the other hand, sounds deserted by comparison. Yet what it lacks in kinetic energy, it recoups in potential. Its vaguely narrative lyrics frame a story that comes across as oddly prescient in our time. But, the song's glowing core and vanishing horns grant it an austere, almost redemptive beauty. Even a casual listener will recall Once In A Lifetime, which is a comedy of hypothetical situations whose signs point toward an immediate truth. The pop song as vehicle for artistic statement would become a signature of late career Talking Heads.

This album is often lauded for how it celebrates African music without uncomfortably imitating it. Remain In Light incorporates those ideas by way of allusions rather than outright imitation, and in doing so arrives at an unprecedented blending of post-punk, funk, new wave and world beat. Although I appreciate the significance of its genre blending, Remain In Light is most relevant to me because it altered how Talking Heads approached music. They transcended themselves on this one. The roots of the "expanded" 'Heads of Stop Making Sense fame take shape on this album. That film would be the apex of their career as performers. Remain In Light is the apex of their recording career.