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Pitchfork APRIL 23, 2020 - by Jayson Greene

TALKING HEADS: FEAR OF MUSIC

Fear Of Music, the third album by Talking Heads, begins at maximum velocity and minimum warmth. Congas, funk guitar, chirping synths: Everything is in motion, and yet curiously, nothing seems to be moving. A guitar figure like a crying baby keeps tripping the song's downbeat, and in the closing seconds, a phased guitar line comes in played by Robert Fripp, layering 5/4 over 4/4 and effectively erasing whatever forward momentum this blank, pistoning thing was creating to begin with. The groove feels uncanny, a little inhuman, like a flag rippling in no wind.

The words, meanwhile, consist of barked nonsense syllables from Hugo Ball, a German poet of the Dada School. Dadaism mocked the very idea that words could convey meaning, that speakers could carry authority; for a band so devoted to verbal communication they named themselves after it, it was a forbidding gesture. And for fans of the New York band in the late '70s, hearing I Zimbra might have felt like watching their hero obliterated in the first frame of the movie.

It was exactly this sort of hero's-journey narrative into which Fear Of Music seemed to cast a wrench. The band's popularity and acclaim had been gathering heat; Take Me to the River, their stiff-legged cover version of the Al Green standard, peaked at Number 26 on the Hot 100. They'd appeared on Saturday Night Live and American Bandstand, and they'd been touring to steadily bigger crowds. Already the quintessential New York band to New Yorkers, now they risked becoming the quintessential New York band to everyone else - maybe even to the sorts of folks who lived in the Big Country, the places about which Byrne had already admitted, "I wouldn't live there if you paid me."


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