Some albums are an easy flow from the first listen, and some just never get better, no matter how many chances you give it. In between that we have the complicated record that takes a few listens for me to warm up to it, and today’s record, “Speaking In Tongues” by the Talking Heads, falls into that category. The first time I listened to it today, I was distracted by good company, so I had to come back to it a few more times tonight as I waited to fly. When we listened to it today, Christie and I observed that many of the songs were difficult to distinguish one from the next, and while there is a commonality to it, especially on that first listen, I was able to focus more later and pick out several songs I really enjoy.
One of the most unique shows I have ever seen was David Byrne, leader of the Talking Heads, live with eleven other performers in identical grey suits, who all performed their instruments, including keyboards, drums, and horns, in choreographed numbers, constantly moving around the stage. It was really a stunning and impressive show, one that left my son and I shaking our heads in amazement. Since that tour, they have immortalized this act in a movie, “American Utopia”, directed by Spike Lee, and an ongoing Broadway show featuring Byrne and his troupe, that is still running today. There are three songs from this album on the setlist from the show we saw, one of which stood out as one of the very best songs of the night, “Slippery People”.
“Burning Down the House”, their only top 10 single ever, opens the album and was the main set closer that night, and my favorite song on the album was also in the show, “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)”. It is an unusually warm and happy song for the Talking Heads, and I really enjoy its pseudo-reggae groove.
There are still moments when the Talking Heads are almost too avant-garde and artsy for my tastes, but as I read them labeled today, they are a great intersection of new-wave and ‘70s funk. I definitely recalled “Girlfriend Is Better” and the funkier “Swamp” from the days of this album, and the song “Moon Rocks” reminds me a lot of “Life During Wartime”, which they released in 1979. I’m on my 4th listen now as I finish this blog on my flight, and even though it took me a bit to get there, I’m glad I hung in with this album for all of the great memories of that great show, along with some new ones made today.