September’s Album: REMAIN IN LIGHT

So. We’re kicking off a 4 month classic album stint with Talking Heads. Ah, Talking Heads. The band that everyone knows but no one knows. The band who’ve influenced everyone and yet so many people are a bit wary of. I think it’s the fault of the A word.

ART. It’s that rock meets art thing. Maybe Bowie has that reputation too. And when people here about art-rock, they start thinking about concept albums or high-minded dense songs with no tunes or lyrics about Tibet or women in art galleries with dark lipstick and loud voices. And you end up thinking THIS ISN’T ROCK MUSIC. Where’s the sex? Where’s the grit? Where’s the dirt? WHERE’S THE FUN?

Choosing a TH album was always going to be tricky – like Bowie, they’ve had a long career in many guises. And as with my Bowie choice, I could probably have gone for something ‘easier’. Their debut, Talking Heads 77 is probably their most poppy, or perhaps their swansong Naked. But you want the best, right? Well I reckon you’re looking at it right here.

OK. Two rules to this album:
1) You read the Wikipedia page about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remain_in_light
2) You listen to the whole thing 3 times before responding.

Why? Well, it’s an album you need to invest in, like so many of the best are. And the unusually excellent Wikipedia gives you a really fantastic sense of how this album came about. This is a band who were pushing at the musical straitjacket they’d made for themselves and suddenly found a whole new sound. I still think that marriage of African rhythms and the edgy New York paranoia of the band is so fresh, it’s startling. It was a sonic leap forward like nothing else for the band and that sense of excitement comes right off the songs.

The other interesting thing to note is the presence of Eno. He’s such an influence on this album. What a presence he was in the 70s and 80s on so many musicians, pushing them into new territories. He is of course the link to Bowie, with whom he also worked during his Berlin period.

Before I fell for this album, I knew Once In A Lifetime but none of the rest of the album – maybe as you do right now. You’d think there was nothing to add about the incredible awesomness of that song, an astonishing record that manages to be a party favourite that questions your entire existence. But when I first heard in the *context* or the rest of the album, I suddenly got it in an entirely different light.

I hope you too find the light and remain in it. 😉

18 comments

  1. Guy Hornsby

    I’m away on business in South Africa until Friday 21st September so I may take some time to respond. Thanks for your patience.

  2. misterstory

    Cheers Brother David. I look forward to it. I had a trip to Essex coming up this week so had plenty of full album time but it’s just been cancelled! I’ll get some time with it though. I’ve read the wiki page. To be honest, I find wiki album pages usually of a very high standard (at least the albums I look up). They’re a great starting point to look at other things too.

  3. Guy Hornsby

    Ha. You’re going to get a bloody message like that from me every time I get a notification aren’t you? Sorry. OOO means PRs don’t pester me for reviews when i’m away on business. Still, I’m really looking forward to this one. I’ve been a fan of their stuff, but only really know some of their bigger records. But it’s one of those groups I really should have dipped into before now. Good choice Brother. I have a few vintage belters up my sleeve. There’s a really good interview with David Byrne on the Guardian this week. I have to tend to agree with a lot of what he says. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/sep/16/david-byrne-how-music-interview?INTCMP=SRCH

  4. misterstory

    Brother David – are you sending the 12 track re-mastered version of this album? If so can I make a plea please? Can we basically ignore track 9-12 as they are not from the album! As a piece of work released by the band (and record company) these tracks are irrelevant to the final product. ‘Bonus’ tracks annoy the living piss out of me. Sorry to be traditionalist on this one. ‘Hounds of Love’ is one of the worst examples of remastered version ‘bonus’ tracks. They should put a track of 1 mins silence between the end of the proper album and the ‘bonus’ shit! Or stick it on another disk. Grrrrrr.

  5. David Allison

    Oh Joey, ye of little faith.I agree with EVERY SINGLE WORD. I don’t think I’ve agreed with anything more. I HATE it. It bastardises the album as it was intended to be heard and I don’t want the extra tracks because, you know what, they’ll be crap – hence the artist didn’t release them in the first place.And that is why I HAVEN’T ordered you the remaster, I’ve ordered you all the original album, hence they’ve taken a few days cos you could only get them on Amazon from non-Amazon sellers.

  6. Guy Hornsby

    I’m not jumping the gun, but as I’ve been away I’ve only just hooked this up. I’ve read the wiki (very intersting), and I’m on listen 3 now. I have a fair bit to say, so you have been warned!

  7. misterstory

    Hey Brothers. I’ve been meaning to post on this one for a while. Just not had the chance to get round to it due to sleep deprivation induced madness. Ok. I like this. Though it is a tough one to like I think. I’ve come to this album with a great deal of good will. If I am honest, I know I should like it. I am told I should like it by constant reference to David Byrne, Talking Heads and Remain in Light in the every interview where an artist is asked to name inspirations. I think if it were not for that lifelong build up of positivity preceding me listening to this I would have struggled more than I have.This is the problem with reviewing classic albums. Its impossible to approach them without prejudice. An open mind is only partially possible. But this is fine. It is what it is.Here are some bullet pointed observations;1) I like it2) I didn’t like it at first3) At first I thought ‘… but where are the tunes?’ Once in a lifetime stood out like a sore thumb for being the only memorable track.4) It took me way more than 3 listens to ‘get this’5) I am not sure when I would listen to this other than when I am working … this is the only time I’ve listened to it so far6) It still sounds fresh, I don’t think it sounds that dated, if at all. Perhaps this is more a comment on this sound being recycled quite frequently7) Mr. Murphy must like this album very much8) I would recommend this to a friend9) I like it

  8. David Allison

    Interesting comments, Joey, and sort of line with what I suspected you might feel. It isn’t an easy album, certainly, and it’s odd that it’s simultaneously SO clearly influential and yet it also exists very much in its own closed world.Like you, I came to it later – it’s not like I grew up with it or anything. I came to Talking Heads via their later work – Road to Nowhere & And She Was and the Little Creatures album. And then I worked my way back. I immediately loved Talking Heads 77, their debut and More Songs About Buildings and Food, their 2nd offering. But Remain In Light and Fear of Music continued to allude me, even though I bought them and listened to them. It was partly only because I’d heard so much about it that I stuck with Remain in Light.But then I found myself coming back to it. And then again. And then again. Sometimes not for months, but then sometimes quite a few times in a row. And slowly, but surely, it became indispensable to me. I remember feeling outside of it, not knowing it well enough, being a bit freaked out by it – but I don’t feel like that now. It’s one of my favourite albums and I think it always will be. And yes, there is a part that I admire and don’t love, but there’s also so much that I do love. And I’m just blown away by its ambition.Funnily enough, Fear Of Music, the album that preceded this one, has continued to be a struggle for me. Funny how some albums get to you and some just don’t.

  9. Nolan Kane

    I have a a funny relationship with the talking heads. I was fortunate enough to grow up with my parents playing their albums….. though at the time I saw it as a misfortune. Along my travels through like I have learned to love them; the familiarity I’m sure is one of the reasons. Lets get this out of the way, I like this album. Listening to it properly was an interesting journey for me as essentially I know it. With that having this pounded into me at a young age I can understand much of my music taste. Aside from the obvious ‘Once In A Lifetime’, the stand out tracks are ‘Born Under Punches’, and ‘Listening Wind’. I’ve been listening to this allot in the car and whilst working. I think these are great places to listen to this album. I like Brother Joseph I’m not sure where else I would listen to it, but is that a problem?I find this album is really easy to get lost in after a few listens. It’s catchy in its own way and is a grower. This album is one of those that I wouldn’t reach for first but would be happy that I put it on.

  10. Guy Hornsby

    Sorry, brothers, I’ve been really up to my neck, and only got it when I was back from SA on the 20th…. I’ve had a few listens now, and it’s been quite fascinating. I know a good few of Talking Heads records, and it’s fair to say that they’re at the centre of many of my favourite bands. And listening to this album you can see why they’re held in the esteem they are. Throughout the album I can pick up bits that sound like so many of the bands I love today: LCD Soundsystem, Friendly Fires, Hot Chip, Grizzly Bear, plus others that you can see are influenced by them – Vampire Weekend, a lot of the NY bands from the last decade really. That afro-influenced sound. Personally, I haven’t fully got into the album yet. I’m letting it ease its way in. Part of this is undoubtedly from expecting quite a bit of it to being just like Once In A Lifetime, and it’s taken me a while to get into its groove. But I’m enjoying it, for sure. The music itself, having read the wiki page, is fascinating, I never realised that Once In A Lifetime was only in one chord, let alone the whole album. The story of it being made it really interesting, and I have to admit that if there was so much information on other albums I’d listened to maybe I’d appreciate them more. But looking at when it was made, how, and how it was so ahead of its time, it has made me want to get into more of their stuff*Listening to it now it’s harder to really grasp its impact as we’re listening to stuff that’s imitated and picked up now, but it must’ve sounded bonkers at the time. It’s not hard to see why the likes of James Murphy, Alexis Taylor, Al Doyle (there’s a song on their New Build album that’s a direct lift almost, but not in a bad way) and the rest of so many bands quote them as a influence on their careers. So, really good choice. It’s an album that grabs me in a different way each time, and it wants me to make it listen even more. And that’s the sign of a good album to me. *Shall I just drop in that I bought one of Hot Chip’s copies of Remain In Light at Oxjam? [/fanboy]

  11. Guy Hornsby

    Enjoyed this again last night and this morning. Then listened to Twin Shadow – Forget. What a PERFECT segue. I suggest you do the same.

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