Thursday, May 30, 2013
Talking Heads - Speaking in Tongues
Besides the core quartet (David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison and Tina Weymouth), the album also features these additional musicians: Wally Badarou (synthesizer), Nona Hendryx (backing vocals), Richard Landry (saxophone), Shankar (violin), David Van Tieghem (percussion), Alex Weir (guitar) and Bernie Worrell (synthesizer).
Side one begins with “Burning Down the House”. As the first single, it went to number 94 in Australia, number 9 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 8 in Canada, number 6 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and number 5 in New Zealand. This one was a huge party hit during my first year or so of college (1983 and 1984); it has a thundering dance beat and funky guitar riffs, not to mention a title that was made for being shouted out by the crowd.
“Making Flippy Floppy” keeps the party moving with another grinding groove. I like the synth accents on the chorus. As for the lyrics, even when I read them I cannot make heads or tails as to what Byrne was trying to convey.
“Girlfriend Is Better” includes the lyric from which their future live album Stop Making Sense got its title.
“Slippery People” opens with solid percussion with the guitars following that lead. I like the gospel element this one has with the backing vocals the call-response aspect of the chorus.
The B-side to the first single was “I Get Wild / Wild Gravity”, a slower sauntering tune. It mixes in some island rhythms to it add to its mysterious, exotic appeal.
Side two starts with “Swamp”. The beats are bouncy; you can pick up elements that Frantz and Weymouth brought along with them from their early Tom Tom Club recordings. The chorus has a memorable hook in the “hi hi hi hi hi hi” phrases.
“Moon Rocks” tethers its cosmic ideas with a down-and-dirty funk.
“Pull Up the Roots” is next. The chorus is interestingly constructed.
“This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)”, released as the second single, went to number 62 on the US Billboard Hot 200 and number 51 in the UK. This one is a rare example of a love song, something that David Byrne tended to avoid. Changing up things from dance-funk of the previous eight tracks, this one ends the album on a softer, refreshing note.
Speaking in Tongues is a strong party record, the primary reason I added this one to my digital music library. It features a number of hits as well as some deeper cuts that got a lot of AOR airplay, especially when they were featured on the aforementioned Stop Making Sense live album from 1984.
For more Talking Heads reviews, please check the links below:
- for 1980’s Remain in Light, click here
- for their 1982 live album The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, click here