INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Age NOVEMBER 11, 2011 - by Chris Johnston
TALKING HEADS: I ZIMBRA
The trio of incredible Talking Heads records between 1978 and 1980 - More Songs About Buildings And Food, Fear Of Music and Remain In Light - were like a surging of adrenalin or an accumulation of natural, seismic forces towards an apocalyptic, game-changing conclusion. All three records involved Brian Eno, then in his early thirties, his great ambient masterworks under way, his polyrhythmic Before And After Science released a year or so before as punk broke all around him. His involvement in Talking Heads' More Songs About Buildings And Food was scant; he was more or less a session synth player. His minor influence can be felt only in a song such as Artists Only. This was not the rickety, jumpy, jittery Talking Heads of old. Things were shifting. Then on Fear Of Music, Eno became the producer. He also co-wrote the remarkable opening song I Zimbra, a pan-African percussion symphony with words taken from a dadaist poem: "E glassala, tuffm, I zimbra!" Eno suggested using these words; it fitted the band's desire for a chant rather than a song. What the finished piece did was launch not only one of the great post-punk albums but also foreshadowed Remain In Light, which is clearly among the best and most adventurous in the alt-music canon. On it, Eno essentially took over. He and Byrne had made the tribal My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts between times and Remain In Light flew through a cosmos of atmospheres, taking in fela Kuti, Krautrock - all the good stuff. It ended with The Overload, a soft bomb implying this magnificent phase was over. The next Talking Heads material would be the shiny Speaking In Tongues album with Burning Down The House and Slippery People. Eno was gone, yet I Zimbra remained as his ultimate journey in to the era just past.