Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings And Food (1978)

AllMusic Review: The title of Talking Heads’ second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food, slyly addressed the sophomore record syndrome, in which songs not used on a first LP are mixed with hastily written new material. If the band’s sound seems more conventional, the reason simply may be that one had encountered the odd song structures, staccato rhythms, strained vocals, and impressionistic lyrics once before. Another was that new co-producer Brian Eno brought a musical unity that tied the album together, especially in terms of the rhythm section, the sequencing, the pacing, and the mixing. Where Talking Heads had largely been about David Byrne’s voice and words, Eno moved the emphasis to the bass-and-drums team of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz; all the songs were danceable, and there were only short breaks between them. Byrne held his own, however, and he continued to explore the eccentric, if not demented persona first heard on 77, whether he was adding to his observations on boys and girls or turning his “Psycho Killer” into an artist in “Artists Only.” Through the first nine tracks, More Songs was the successor to 77, which would not have earned it landmark status or made it the commercial breakthrough it became. It was the last two songs that pushed the album over those hurdles. First there was an inspired cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River”; released as a single, it made the Top 40 and pushed the album to gold-record status. Second was the album closer, “The Big Country,” Byrne’s country-tinged reflection on flying over middle America; it crystallized his artist-vs.-ordinary people perspective in unusually direct and dismissive terms, turning the old Chuck Berry patriotic travelogue theme of rock & roll on its head and employing a great hook in the process. — William Ruhlmann

Track Listing:

All tracks are written by David Byrne, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” 2:11
2. “With Our Love” 3:30
3. “The Good Thing” 3:03
4. “Warning Sign” Byrne, Chris Frantz 3:55
5. “The Girls Want to Be with the Girls” 2:37
6. “Found a Job” 5:00
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Artists Only” Byrne, Wayne Zieve 3:34
2. “I’m Not in Love” 4:33
3. “Stay Hungry” Byrne, Frantz 2:39
4. “Take Me to the River” Al Green, Mabon “Teenie” Hodges 5:00
5. “The Big Country”

 

 

Schill Score: 9.25/10

Listen to Album

 

Talking Heads – Talking Heads 77 (1977)

AllMusic Review: Though they were the most highly touted new wave band to emerge from the CBGB’s scene in New York, it was not clear at first whether Talking Heads’ Lower East Side art rock approach could make the subway ride to the midtown pop mainstream successfully. The leadoff track of the debut album, Talking Heads: 77, “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town,” was a pop song that emphasized the group’s unlikely roots in late-’60s bubblegum, Motown, and Caribbean music. But the “Uh-Oh” gave away the group’s game early, with its nervous, disconnected lyrics and David Byrne’s strained voice. All pretenses of normality were abandoned by the second track, as Talking Heads finally started to sound on record the way they did downtown: the staggered rhythms and sudden tempo changes, the odd guitar tunings and rhythmic, single-note patterns, the non-rhyming, non-linear lyrics that came across like odd remarks overheard from a psychiatrist’s couch, and that voice, singing above its normal range, its falsetto leaps and strangled cries resembling a madman trying desperately to sound normal. Talking Heads threw you off balance, but grabbed your attention with a sound that seemed alternately threatening and goofy. The music was undeniably catchy, even at its most ominous, especially on “Psycho Killer,” Byrne’s supreme statement of demented purpose. Amazingly, that song made the singles chart for a few weeks, evidence of the group’s quirky appeal, but the album was not a big hit, and it remained unclear whether Talking Heads spoke only the secret language of the urban arts types or whether that could be translated into the more common tongue of hip pop culture. In any case, they had succeeded as artists, using existing elements in an unusual combination to create something new that still managed to be oddly familiar. And that made Talking Heads: 77 a landmark album. — William Ruhlmann

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town” 2:48
2. “New Feeling” 3:09
3. “Tentative Decisions” 3:04
4. “Happy Day” 3:55
5. “Who Is It?” 1:41
6. “No Compassion” 4:47
Side two
No. Length
1. “The Book I Read” 4:06
2. “Don’t Worry About the Government” 3:00
3. “First Week/Last Week… Carefree” 3:19
4. “Psycho Killer” 4:19
5. “Pulled Up” 4:29

 

 

Schill Score:  8.5/10

 

Listen to Album