"In hindsight, the Talking Heads' Fear of Music can be viewed as a transitional affair that bridged the gap dividing the distinctive, new wave-meets-R&B jitters of Talking Heads: 77 and More Songs about Buildings and Food from the funk-laced fury of Remain in Light and Speaking in Tongues. It also happens to be the band's most daunting and difficult album to embrace.
From its paranoia-filled lyrics to its tightly-wound arrangements, the aptly titled Fear of Music perfectly captured the sound of a complete psychological breakdown. The songs themselves were given innocuously simplistic titles befitting an inmate at a psychiatric ward. In fact, seven of the 11 tracks were graced with only a single-word moniker — Mind, Paper, and Drugs, among them. At first, the effect masked, and then it enhanced, the terrifying substance of Byrne's apprehensive ruminations, which expressed his beliefs that animals were laughing at him, his electric guitar wasn't to be trusted, and the air itself was causing him harm.
In illustrating Byrne's twitchy psychoses, the Talking Heads rekindled its relationship with producer Brian Eno, and unlike More Songs about Buildings and Food, this time, the partnership was more even-handed. In particular, Eno's eerily ambient influence is felt deeply on the nervous dissonance of Memories Can't Wait as well as on the unsettling distortion of Drugs, though nearly everything — from the mechanical beat of Mind to the manic urgency of Life During Wartime to the harried Cities — bore his mark. Still, it was the Talking Heads' frenetic energy that kept the material aloft.
Despite the array of aural effects that filtered through Fear of Music, however, its incarnation as a 5.1 surround sound DUALDISC isn't nearly as enveloping of the listener as one might expect it to be. Part of the problem is that remixing the effort proved to be fraught with difficulties because it originally was recorded with a remote truck at the loft in which Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth resided. The band's lo-fi approach meant that the new version of the outing was destined to contain less dimensionality and depth than it otherwise might have, but the end result is that its subdued, but no less stellar, sonic spectrum augments the sensation of constrained claustrophobia that pervades endeavor. The CD side also contains alternate versions of Mind, Cities, and Life During Wartime as well as an unfinished, David Bowie-esque outtake titled Dancing for Money, while the DVD side features performances of Cities and I Zimbra that were taken from a 1980 installment of the German television show Rockpop. Undoubtedly, all of the extras, while enlightening, are geared towards avid collectors rather than casual fans, but this is wholly appropriate for an album that is as intensely challenging as Fear of Music." - John Metzger
Time stands still when you're cracking up. At the brink of mental overload, there's a revelatory instant — a freeze frame in which everything fits together in new ways. Logic dissolves, paralogic reigns. And in that precarious moment, the world is fixed in place, skewed and renewed.
David Byrne's lyrics on Talking Heads' Fear of Music are paralogical visions stated with almost childlike directness: he thinks that air hits him in the face, that animals want to change his life, that "someone controls electric guitar." By itself, this perspective makes Byrne's songs fascinating. But what makes Talking Heads my favorite and probably the best rock band anywhere is that they've invented an audio analog to their view from the brink: rock music that warps and suspends time.
They use a simple device: repetition. Unswerving rhythms, immobile harmonies. Each tune is a chain of sections linked by rhythm, each section a matrix of interlocking riffs. "I Zimbra" stakes Talking Heads' claim to pure mechanization. One by one, the instruments click into place in a rhythm pattern fleshed out by Afro-futurist harmonies and topped by the meaningless chanted syllables of a poem by Twenties Dadaist Hugo Ball. At composition's end, Robert guitar phases through the whole pulsing assemblage like the shuttle of a high-speed loom.
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