Talking Heads

What the Songs Look Like

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Talking Heads were always the odd boys (and girl) of the New York punk movement, the ones who carried a note to excuse them from sports, and formed the band in chemistry class, somewhere between splitting a frog and dissecting the atom. It only followed, then (to pursue the institutional metaphor), that once they'd got the first quirky head-kick of youthful zaniness out of their system, they would turn into the sort of preposterous art-school nuisances who never get laid because they seem so weird. So they just get weirder to compensate. What the Songs Look Like, in common with most everything else the band did through 1979, is the sound of the original awkward caterpillar turning into an equally ungainly butterfly. The closing cover of "Take Me to the River," all lazy, sinewy bass and enflamed staccato stutter, highlights the inspiration they were capable of at their period best; elsewhere, snatches from the then-current Fear of Music album indicate that away from the studio trickery, Talking Heads could still get down and boogie. After a fashion. Indeed, by general standards, "Psycho Killer" rocks, "Big Country" explodes, and "Electricity" is "Heart of Glass" meets Lynyrd Skynyrd. Kinda. But just two years after they toured with the Ramones and generally impressed the world with their post-Pere Ubu dislocation, you can hear the band listening to what the critics say, getting cleverer by the chord sequence, and it has to end in tears because no one's head can fit that far up their bottom without tearing something.

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