Talking Heads' last proper studio album before their protracted breakup finds them returning to the dynamic that produced their best work, with inspired results. As swan songs go, Naked proves to be a pretty good one: Alternately serious and playful, it once again allows frontman David Byrne to worry about the government, the environment, and the plight of the working man as it frees up the rest of the band to trade instruments and work with guest musicians. It's closest in spirit to Remain in Light -- arguably too close: The first side is a collection of funky, syncopated, almost danceable tunes; the second, a murky, darkly philosophical rumination on identity and human nature. The major difference is a Latin influence replacing Light's African rhythm experimentation, most evident on the album openers "Blind" and "Mr. Jones," as well as in drummer Chris Frantz's decision to use brushes and softer percussion instruments (as opposed the big beat sound he offered up on Little Creatures and True Stories). With the venerable Steve Lillywhite behind the boards and such luminaries as Johnny Marr, Kirsty MacColl, and Yves N'Djock punctuating the credits, the album sounds technically perfect, but there's little of the loose, live feel the band achieved with former mentor Brian Eno. It's quite a feat to pull of a late-career album as ambitious as Naked, and the Heads do so with style and vitality. But no matter how much the liner notes may boast of free-form invention and boundless creativity, the album's elegiac, airtight tone betrays the sound of four musicians growing tired of the limits they've imposed on one another.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael Hastings