Talking Heads: Fear of Music

I blame Gang of Four.

I was so swept away from discovering Entertainment! in 2005, I jonesed for more of that same punk guitar and new wave rhythms.

Where, oh where, would find such a brilliant marriage of odd riffs and danceable beats?

Listed as an influence in AllMusic’s entry of Gang of Four was Talking Heads. Huh. I never did collect any Talking Heads when I was younger.

When the band was at its creative peak, I was in junior high, discovering Duran Duran and Eurythmics. By the time high school ended, so was Talking Heads.

As a result, they became one of many bands I should have listened to while growing up.

I started with the 2005 anthology The Best of Talking Heads and realized the band was part of my youth more significantly than I remembered. Upon the recommendation of friends, I went with Fear of Music next.

There isn’t much point adding to the years’ worth of accolades heaped on this album. I’m usually skeptical of such accolades since I wasn’t old enough to understand the context in which they were originally made.

But the adventurousness of Fear of Music can’t be dismissed.

The album gets dark and angular, and while its highly rhythmic moments are conducive for booty-shaking, it’s tempered by David Byrne’s maniacal vocals and Chris Franz’s schizophrenic guitars.

"Animals" is all over the place, but it gets lucid enough to throw a South African guitar lick in the chorus. "I Zimbra" introduces the international elements that would inform Byrne’s later work.

"Heaven" features the best lyric on the album: "Heaven is the place where nothing much happens." And yet evangelical Christians are so anxious to get there …

Living Colour turned "Memories Can’t Wait" into a metal anthem, but the original possesses a robotic chilliness Living Colour couldn’t touch.

Fear of Music is a quirky and ominous work, tightly constructed and wonderfully performed. I’m glad to have taken the time to discover it.