"Fear of Music," Talking Heads

It was 25 years ago, August 3, 1979 to be exact, that Talking Heads released what would be considered by many as the sequeway album between their two distinct sounds. The earlier albums, "Talking Heads '77" and 1978's sophomore "More Songs About Buildings and Food," had a new wave almost post-punk feel to them. With the help of producer Brian Eno, the Talking Heads were determined to add a new dimension to their next release, one where polyrhythmic funk and atmosphere meshed seamlessly with their earlier herky-jerky style. Although "Fear of Music" was the second album produced by Brian Eno, after "More Songs ….," this is where the collaborative synergy between David Byrne and Eno really became evident. The result was an often overlooked gem in their catalogue and one that is arguably the best Talking Heads album.

The opening track, "I-Zimbra," features King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp playing along with the rest of the Heads in an African based funk jam. "Mind" is a catchy, somewhat cerebral song with guitar hooks and very interesting lyrics about disagreement. "Paper" builds on the funky theme introduced earlier and adds a taste of new wave, while "Cities" takes this one step further. Then, comes the equally funky but eerily relevant "Life During Wartime," with lyrics that could be interpreted from the point of view of a terrorist- insightful in this day and age to say the least.

Next up is the reverberating gothic tinged "Memories Can't Wait," with Byrne chanting "There's a party in my mind, and I hope it never stops…." "Air" offers a nice introduction to the almost ballad like "Heaven," with piano chords accenting my favorite Heads lyrics ever: "Heaven is a place, A place where nothing ever happens." "Animals" and "Electric Guitar" are classic Talking Heads, with irreverent lyrics and playful musicianship. The finale is "Drugs," a surreal and atmospheric synth driven song about the states of mind induced by psychoactive drugs.

The albums that followed, 1980's highly acclaimed "Remain in Light" and their 1983 commercial breakthrough release "Speaking in Tongues," built further on the sound that was introduced on "Fear of Music." Although many fans would say that these two are among their best, it cannot be denied that "Fear of Music" was truly a breakthrough album. The remarkable thing is how fresh it still sounds and how relevant to our age the lyrics have proven to be. These are the tell tale signs of a true classic.


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