Talking Heads

Crosseyed and Painless

Composed by Brian Eno / Chris Frantz / David Byrne / Jerry Harrison / Tina Weymouth

Song Review by

Taking cues from David Bowie's experiments with the same producer, Talking Heads hook up for their third collaboration with pioneering Brian Eno for Remain in Light (1980), one of the most influential and groundbreaking albums in pop music. Talking Heads, again like Bowie, successfully blend elements of dance and rock musical styles, filtering it through electronically treated African rhythms and intricate and dense production. Calling "Crosseyed and Painless" a rock-funk song is an inadequate and insufficient description. The band and Eno -- who is listed as a co-writer -- have created new soundscapes and helped chip away at the implied, often overt, racial divide between rock and dance music. Beyond that, they -- Eno and David Byrne in particular -- uninhibitedly incorporate African musical influences, thus helping to pave the way toward further American pop and world music blends recorded in the '80s and '90s by artists like Peter Gabriel and countless others. There are just two chords and three or four bass notes in the whole song. The beats, like much of the record, are unrelenting, but few songs on the album are as driving as "Crosseyed and Painless." There is even little in the way of dynamics to break up the arrangement; the 1/16 note percussion -- cowbell loops, congas, bells, staccato guitar rhythms, electronic blips -- have a cumulative, pummeling effect. There are some remarkable Adrian Belew guitar parts, which turn the idea of the rock guitar solo on its head -- sweeping, eerie textures that pan through the stereo mix. But the only substantial arrangement/construction device comes in the way of multiple vocal parts. The bass-drums rhythm section of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz remain steadfast through the maelstrom. Byrne is his usual enigmatic self, giving voice to another off-kilter narrator. Angular and obtuse, his verses show a man at war with himself. "Lost my shape," he spits out, "Trying to act casual/Can't stop/I might end up in the hospital/Changing my shape/I feel like an accident/They're back/To explain their experience...Facts are never what they seem to be." Like the music itself, the narrator seems driven by forces beyond his control; whether they're internal or larger, external influences, he seems unsure. Fitting in with the themes of the rest of the album -- and indeed, many of Byrne's songs -- the lyrics point to information overload, paranoia, and individual alienation in an oppressive urban society.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Remain in Light 1980 Warner Bros. 4:45
The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads 1982 Rhino / Warner Bros.
Stop Making Sense 1984 Warner Bros. 6:11
No Image 1984 Warner Bros.
No Image 1988 Warner Reprise Video
No Image 1991 Golden Stars 7:32
Popular Favorites 1976-1992: Sand in the Vaseline 1992 Rhino / Warner Bros. 4:48
Once in a Lifetime 2003 Rhino / Sire/Warner Reprise Video
Talking Heads [DualDisc] 2005 Rhino 7:17
No Image 2007
Various Artists
WEA/Bose 4:46
Live in Rome 2008 Atipica / SBP / Top Tape
Same as It Ever Was 2009 Hear Music
Burning Down Rome 2010 Lighthouse Records
Chronology 2011 Eagle Rock
Remain in Light/Speaking in Tongues/Fear of Music Sire 4:47
Vol. 1-3 For 1 Box Set Sire
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