on January 21, 2004
Talking Heads, the seminal mainstream art band of the 1980's find American funk in its fullest form. David Byrne once said that Speaking in Tongues was an opportunity to make music similar to Remain in Light, but to make it less dense. Well he did accomplish that in a way, except the music contains more Parliament then Fela Kuti, the synths here are much more noticible and the music once again centers itself around Chris Franz heavy 4/4 drumming and uses the complex African percussion as more of an effect than an actual way to keep rythm. This made Speaking in Tongues their pop breakthrough, and their first slip up.
The abscence of long time producer, and virtual fifth member takes its toll here, and with the new technology the electronics became shaper, more varying and as a result they lost the organic sound achieved on their Eno assisted albums, especially Remain in Light. Gone are the harsh griding sound of "Life During Wartime", and in are the George Clintonesque colorful synth squiggles of "Girlfriend is Better". And thats not the last of George Clinton here, just listen to "Making Flippy Floppy" and then listen to "One Nation Under a Groove" from Clinton's mega-band Funkadelic.
But here the Talking Heads lose their edge, they do manage to make their brand of funk unique to them, but here is where their influences outweigh their own unique contributions, its not by mutch but compared to the unique dance mausic they ceated on Remain in Light, this just seems weak, for any other band this album would probably have been their best, but for the Talking Heads it is their first less than brilliant release. But for first time or inexperienced listner, this is a good album to get after Stop Making Sence because it happy and pop oriented, but still contains the much of the inventiveness of earlier releases, plus it has "Burning Down the House" which is the most popular and well known Talking Heads song.
The problem I have with this version of the album is that it unfortunatly is simply a copy from the tapes used to record the original material. It hasn't been digitally remastered, and the complete absence of bonus material is a major downside. It is such a mystery to me why the Talking Heads catalogue has been treated so poorly by record companies, but for now its the best we're gonna get.
on March 3, 2004
My memories of Friday nights when I was in high school center around two things: playing in the band at football games and watching late night TV while eating a much-delayed dinner afterwards. In the early part of the 1980s, the show that I tuned in was Wolfman Jack's Midnight Special, where I was first exposed to the music video form, since we lived outside of town and didn't have MTV. I recall seeing Nick Lowe's "Cruel to Be Kind," Elvis Costello's "Accidents Will Happen," Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," Alice Cooper's "How You Gonna See Me Now," and Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House." These songs were staples of rock radio, even if the artists weren't, and the video portion did exactly what it was supposed to: increase my interest in the artist.
I didn't buy Speaking in Tongues until 1985, when most others had already moved on to other, newer, albums. But I was commuting back-and-forth between my home in Gatesville and community college in Killeen, a trip of roughly 40 minutes, and my soundtrack for that commute quickly became this album by Talking Heads which I had found in a used cassette store outside the local army base, Ft. Hood.
Why this album? A combination of circumstances surrounded it, making it appropos of the moment. I was living at home and attending Central Texas College because I had flunked out of the University of Texas at Austin, and the white-guy funk of David Byrne somehow matched the awkwardness of my situation, while being bouncy enough to keep my spirits up on that depressing commute, taking my mind off my failure and uncertain future. The fact that the lyrics of this album are an associative mass rather than a logical series allowed me to connect every song to my personal situation.
I can recall as if it were yesterday putting the steering wheel of a Ford Escort in my hands, bouncing in my seat as I sing-a-long with Byrne. From the gospelish chorus of "Swamp" to the infectious beat and call-and-response of "Slippery People," I would join in on each song, probably surprising a number of the pickups that passed me by with my spasmodic renditions of Bryne's stage moves.
And then there's that last song, a paeon to the comfort of home. Byrne sings, "Home is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there" perfectly captured my confusion of appreciating that I had this generous spot to fall-back on while at the same time wanting to be somewhere else (a home of my own, not one made by my parents). The song always seemed to be playing as I drove up the hill to the house, too. It, and the other songs on this album, never fail to take me back to that time, even now that I've moved far from that home. But then, isn't that one of the functions of music?
on November 20, 2003
I remember the first time I ever heard this disc (actually LP)was in Northern Lights Music Store in Minneapolis shortly after it was released. Burning Down the House came on massively loud and frankly I was stunned. I had never heard anything so quasi-funky/rocky sort of thing in my life. I thought.....who are these guys? Needless to say I wasn't listening to the Heads much then, but this album changed all that and a whole lot more. From this I discovered their older stuff and have really enjoyed them ever since that mind altering day in Minneapolis.
Anyway, in my opinion the best of the disc, and because of these tracks the reason you should buy it:
1. Girlfriend is Better
2. Making Flippy Flop
3. Naive Melody (Absolutely beautiful)
4. Pull Up the Roots
5. Burning Down the House
Talking Heads: 77, Little Creatures and Stop Making Sense are all superb in their own right, but it all started right here for me and I'm really glad I was in that store that day.
on September 26, 2002
Speaking in Tongues is an incredible album. Most bands slow down by their fifth album, but not the heads. Just when you think that they don't have any more brilliant creative riffs and bass lines they bring you this remarkable piece of art. The guitars are not as heavy on this as on previous albums. They incorporate many other synthesized elements into the mix but the results are very satisfying. All the other elements are still there: great songwriting, intellectually challenging lyrics, and rhythmic and melodic bass lines and guitar riffs. In terms of the songs themselves all of them are great. From track one to track nine every song is great and will have you singing along or dancing. "Making Flippy Floppy" is particularly energetic and danceable. It combines all the elements that characterize the heads and make them a truly great American band. Other standout tracks are "Burning Down the House," "Girlfriend is better," "Slippery People," hell just about every track. One great track that is really a standout is "Naive Melody (this must be the place)." This track is notable because it is perhaps the only real love song that David Byrne has ever written. It is about being thrilled to be with another person and is about faithfulness, at least this is what I gather. I also personally love this song because it has such a great, hypnotic guitar riff that is played throught the entire song. It is really a perfect way to end the album. It is so hard to rank the heads albums because just about everyone of them (especially the first five) is so good. Yet, still this has to be one of their best.
on September 20, 2002
First, I must start by saying to that seemingly uncultured fan from New Orleans, I now understand why Brittany Spears comes from there.
How can you not "get" SPEAKING IN TONGUES? This, to me, was Talking Heads defining moment, with the subsequent film, Stop Making Sense. I lived near these guys in Long Island City & listened to them create these & many other great pieces of music back in the day. I was entranced by their sensibility & style. This album meshes African, funk, rock, electronica, gospel, pop & dance into a collage of jubilation of life. One must be glad to be alive to witness such an inspiring group of songs. Quirky beats that sound like hearbeats, nervous tics, hiccups, spasms - things in life. Things that are off kilter - real!!!! With guest artists like Nona Hendryx, Wally Badarou, Bernie Worrell & Dolette Macdonald (later in Sting's crew) one cannot go wrong. "Burnin..." is a musical classic already, Slippery People 's style has been copied by everyone from R.E.M. to Billy Joel with its's choir reply chorus. Pull up the Roots could force the dead to dance. With "Swamp", Byrne offers the singer an education on working a character into song without sounding like an idiot. Ok, maybe MOON ROCKS isn't so interesting. But, it doesn't take anything away from this incredible band's masterpiece. I didn't think it could get better that Remain In Light, but I knew I was wrong from the second I heard this one. They did break up at the right time. I commend them for that. But I'd love to see them get together for one big reunion tour before they are all too old!!! They deserved to be loved live by their old following!!!
on February 14, 2002
From their formation among New York's punk/new wave/alternative scene in 1976, until the time of their breakup in 1992, the Talking Heads were one of the most brilliant, critically acclaimed "intellectual bands" of all time. Among their eight highly praised studio albums, and their various singles, the Talking Heads were regarded as "art rock," a term which came from their powerful, exhilirating artistic imagery...and the fact that three of the members (Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and David Byrne) were graduates from a Rhode Island art school. Though some of the band members have since disregarded the term, it has stuck, and deservedly so. The Talking Heads' music can be described as one thing only: art in its most beautiful forms.
It remains a difficult task to select any one album from the Talking Heads' catologue to signify their musical and artistic zenith. But when a choice must be made, 1983's "Speaking in Tongues" is a stand out contestant.
"Speaking in Tongues" was recorded after all four members had ventured with some sort of solo project, one of the reasons for the album's excellency; it allowed all four personalities to better shine without a weakening hesitancy...yet still keeping a group feel of equality, no long solos for a particular instrument.
Next, this was the first Talking Heads album in about five years without famous producer/collaborator Brian Eno. According to vocalist and guitarist David Byrne, "...the others and I sensed him wanting us to be his backup band..." Without the so-called 'meddling' of Eno, the group vented their ideas more freely, a key element in making great music, as shown in this album.
Experimentation also played a role in the poignancy of "Speaking in Tongues"...if it can be called experimentation; by 1983, the band was following standards of mainstream pop music. With this, a sound escaped from the band that had never been heard before...previously, almost all of their material had sounded extremely different from anything else on the radio at that time. But now, with this newfound blend of pop, the music of the Talking Heads was allowed to 'go new places.' Only here, experimentation actually works.
Each song on "Speaking in Tongues" incites a different feeling; 'Burning Down the House' (named for the chant of "Burn down the house" at Parliament-Funkadelic concerts) ignites a spark in everyone who hears it. Of energy, of excitement, of joy.
'Girlfriend is Better' stirs up a sense of wonder, with a hint of sorrow, while leading the listener to believe there is something to be discovered. And one of the most striking pieces on the album, 'This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)', possesses a gravitational force all its own, made up of the naively melodic beat of the music and Byrne's desperate and beautiful vocals. Irony works.
Though the Talking Heads cannot be praised for one sole accomplishment, as with all bands there is a zenith somewhere. And though it remains true that this band's lexicon is one of mystery, "Speaking in Tongues" is a great place to start looking for that climax of talent.
on April 11, 2000
This is perhaps the final album of true great power for the Talking Heads, and even on here, their turn in a purely pop direction can be noted rather strongly. It's a shame that this doesn't come in the original (and limited) Robert Rauschenberg packaging, as the ever-altering accumulation of clutter and debris shown on that is a good metaphor for this album; after the final dizzying explosion/implosion of "Remain In Light", this album returns the Heads back to the debris of the streets and the real world, to begin anew the observations and to examine their surroundings. Again, the strong funk influence is here, but it seems tempered...perhaps with a new lightness. And the atmospherics of Mr. Eno are definitely curtailed in his absence. But this is like the amazing denouement, the closing of the curtain on the bewildering world this band plunged everyone thru in the flight from "More Songs..." to this release. One could say that the final track here sums it up...we're 'home' again. A wonderful, interesting album...not as weighty and portentious as what came before, but we've certainly learned quite a bit through the trip.
on May 27, 1999
Byrne, Weymouth, Franz and Harrison must've decided "less Fixx more Funkadelics" on this pivotal CD. "Speaking In Tongues" and its companion, the video to the Demme directed "Stop Making Sense", in my opinion are peak-form, post-Eno Heads. The album features keyboardists Wally Badarou--on loan from Island Records session work--and Bernie Worrell, who may or may not have been on loan from George Clinton's P-funk camp. Their work is fantabulous, particularly on the multi-tracked, polyrhythmic "Girlfriend Is Better"--the CD's tour-de-force. "Swamp", a growling, slow winding, genetically engineered piece of alterno-funk, finds Bryne playing bluesman. Lady bassist Tina "Tom-Tom" Weymouth has always been impressive to me--she helps keep the bottom in tracks like "Slippery People" and "Moon Rocks" moving! This is another fine CD you can put on and let ride all day long. No track skipping required.
on September 29, 1999
I beg to differ with those below who prefer "Speaking in Tongues" to "Remain in Light". I maintain that no Talking Heads record is better than "Remain in Light", and, for that matter, very little else is either. Still prominent on "Speaking in Tongues" are David Byrne's "fragmentation" non-sequitur lyrical technique and the influence of Nigerian pop star Fela. I like best about this record "This Must Be the Place" (of course) and L. Shankar's violing playing. (L. Shankar is a former member of John McLaughlin's wonderful Shakti. He is not related to sitarist Ravi Shankar.)
So yes, I recommend "Speaking in Tongues", but I also recommend "Remain in Light", Shakti's "Natural Elements", and while I'm at it, Jeff Burns's "Pentatonic Scales for the Jazz Rock Keyboardist", a method book.
on January 11, 2009
To the customer who gave 1 star for his/her review, I know how you felt. When I first bought this album (Yes Album!) back in '84, I said "What the Heck! This is Talking Heads?" and put it away hoping to trade it in later. A few weeks later I heard "Moon Rocks" on the radio and decided to give it another listen. Well let me tell you. I saw the light or at least I heard it! This takes getting used to, but wow what a fabulous effort by this group. They took Disco and Talking Heads fans for a wild ride! I was never a big Disco fan, but David Byrne and company turned it into a primo party album. I am sure in everyones record collection there are a few albums that took more than one listen to GET used to and this is one of them. If you are a HEADS fan, just give it a chance. You will be converted! A definite departure from their earlier work, but pure genius in the end. Play It Loud!