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Pitchfork JUNE 23, 2004 - by Ryan Schreiber
THE TOP 100 ALBUMS OF THE 1970S - #31: TALKING HEADS' FEAR OF MUSIC
"We're in a funny position," David Byrne told Rolling Stone upon Fear Of Music's release. "It wouldn't please us to make music that's impossible to listen to, but we don't want to compromise for the sake of popularity." Yet in 1979, Talking Heads were more popular than they'd ever been, as Fear Of Music became the first album of what would become known as "new-wave" to break Billboard's Top 25.
So it's odd that, with the exception of the politically charged Life During Wartime, Fear Of Music is remarkably free of the kind of radio-friendly unit-shifters that marked their previous releases. Instead, Talking Heads' nervous pop began to turn darker and more exploratory: Tracks like I Zimbra and Animals toyed with the African polyrhythms that came to full fruition on the band's definitive statement, 1980's Remain In Light, while the highly experimental Electric Guitar marched to an erratic, misshapen melody and producer Brian Eno's alien effects. And yet, for every Drugs - whose minimalist creep was taken by an imposing stillness and suspended reverb - the album played host to a handful of brighter, more conventional pop tracks (Cities, Paper), including one of the group's few ballads (the serene Heaven). Talking Heads' most successful album, 1983's Speaking In Tongues, was still four years ahead of them, but here, Byrne seems more keenly aware of the balance between the difficult and the approachable than anywhere else in their discography.