Monday, 4 June 2018

Talking Heads - 77 (1977)

I can't seem to face up to the facts....


Released September 1977

Recorded at Sundragon Studios, New York City

Running time 38.37

From New York’s CBGB’s punk scene came a surprising oddity - the quirky, post punk before punk had barely begun, band of somewhat dull earnest studenty-types led by a hyper-active nerdy lead singer in David Byrne. This was Talking Heads. The like of them had not been seen or heard before - jangly sometimes funky guitars, a solid bass and drum beat and Byrne’s manic, often unsettling vocal delivery. Nobody knew quite what to make of them. They helped to kill of punk’s anger almost immediately - their music and lyrics were thoughtful, cerebral, not destructive. The times were a changing already.


1. Uh-Oh Love Comes To Town

2. New Feeling
3. Tentative Decisions
4. Happy Day
5. Who Is It?
6. No Compassion
7. The Book I Read
8. Don't Worry About The Government
9. First Week, Last Week...Carefree
10. Psycho Killer
11. Pulled Up                                                                  

Kicking off with the short, frantic Uh-Oh Love Comes To Town we were presented with an album full of shortish, sharp guitar-driven odd songs with strange lyrics and a sort of thrillingly unique guitar sound. They were totally uncategorisable. I remember seeing them live in early 1978 and being captivated by them, both musically and performance-wise. 

They were, I have to say, an acquired taste, were Talking Heads, but their songs had hooks, such as the catchy chorus part on Tentative Decisions, the guitar funk of New Feeling and the gently tuneful and enchanting First Week, Last Week...Carefree. The Book I Read also stayed in the head as, of course, did the now iconic single, the mysterious Psycho Killer, with Byrne going full-on Anthony Perkins.

Happy Day starts a bit like The Velvet Underground's Sunday Morning before ending up as a quirky number with a decidedly odd, yelping vocal from Byrne. No Compassion is a solid piece of funk-influenced post punk-ish song, full of those frenetically-strummed guitar lines that came to characterise Talking Heads' early work. Don't Worry About The Government has a catchy feel in its verses, with Byrne singing in a sort of idiot-savant way. The refrain is oddly appealing. It is one of the album's instantly alluring numbers. 

Another having the same effect is the album’s closer, Pulled Up, which also had a great riff and a madcap high-pitched chorus vocal from Byrne. The funk of the short track Who Is It? provided an early pointer as to future sounds as well. The album also had an attempt at being hopefully iconic with its basic all-red cover. Listening to it now, it is clear that it really was a notable debut album.

The non-album single, Love Goes To Building on Fire is a gem. Totally un-analysable though.


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