Thursday, February 14, 2013

Talking Heads – Little Creatures

   Late seventies and early eighties were the years of the defeat of artistic ambitions in rock and in progressive jazz. And probably main failure was experienced by art rock which was seen as eccentric thus more and more marginalized. In the time of corporation offensive against counterculture and the disco triumph on the world markets the only radical resistance was punk rock. In US this situation was more complicated because of the variety of social and cultural sets and attitudes. There was still very strong traditional position of country music, many subgenres of urban and R&B music, different kinds of rock, some even recognized as a part of popular culture, but counterculture in its semantic layer. A good example is radicalism of the early rap which has year by year changing into the shallow disco, but before that happened, he had a very strong social impact. Some American artists were still convicted of intellectual and social importance of rock music and aspiring to continue such mission just like many sub cultural rebels in Great Britain and some European countries, who were still strongly devoted to progressive ideas. One of such groups was Talking Heads.
   Talking Heads were formed as the quartet in 1975 and for more than a decade remained in its unchanged lineup. David Byrne was singer and guitar player, but he was also authoring the lyrics, most of the music and the frontman of the group. Drummer Chris Frantz, bass guitarist Tina Weymouth and keyboardist Jerry Harrison were also singing backing vocals. Although the band was formed and resided in New York City, none of musicians was native New Yorker. The leader was born in Scotland and definitely he was the driving force of the group. Beside the Talking Heads’ activity, Byrne was active as avant-garde musician, filmmaker, writer and artist. This is one of heaviest creative individualities of last four decades.

Talking Heads – Little Creatures (1985)

   Released in 1985, Little Creatures is the sixth album of Talking Heads and product intended to please every possible listener. Good production with quite a long list of guest appearances, with Lenny Pickett on saxophones, Naná Vasconcelos on percussion, Eric Weissberg on steel guitar and many others, makes this album a quintessence of what was good in pop rock of 80’s. Songs credited mainly for Byrne are clear although esoteric and sometimes quirky. Melodies are still derived from riffs which are main particles of these songs. Merging austerity of punk rock songs with art rock ambitions – which should be impossible combination itself – it was one of most successful albums of the decade. Even if this music is still located in subgenre sometimes disparagingly called “college rock”.
   Cover graphics of naïve artist and Baptist minister Howard Finster connects visions of new world and some religious verses. After years nine songs of this album can be seen as some kind of evergreen although any come back of this kind of pop rock is practically impossible. Once more pop music had only interim value and what was pop in Talking Heads’ music occurred to be “on the road to nowhere”. What was alternative or so called “art punk” may be still interesting even if it’s only a social history document. In fact it was more a product for the era of new world, than creating an alternative attitude which David Byrne did in many other projects. Three stars considering overall performance and Byrne’s lyrics.

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