‘Remain In Light’, is the fourth studio album by the ‘Talking Heads’, released in 1980 this record marks a change in writing style for the band who had previously written all their music around David Byrnes lyrics. In this effort the band experimented with African polyrhythms and loops while writing, conversely Byrne only wrote his lyrics after the music was completed. While this process proved lengthy, it did attract the services of Brain Eno who had refrained from working with the band again until he heard the demos.
The album itself received overwhelmingly positive reviews upon release and is now considered to be the ‘Talking Heads’ best album by many music critics. Rolling Stone ranked the album as the 11th best album of the 80’s and the 43rd best album ever.
The Album starts with the Funk inspired ‘Born under punches’, a track that could have been taken from a funkadelic record with its staccato guitars and dreary backing vocals. The track itself is about a paranoid government man, however several parallels have since been made between Byrne and his fictional protagonist.
This funky aspect of the band’s music, can be heard across the entire length of the album, ‘Crosseyed and Painless’ is a high energy funk tune with James Brown like percussion and a driven groovy bass line that penetrates through the looped guitars.
‘Once in a lifetime’ is perhaps the only commercially focussed track on the record, with a more guitar driven rock sound than other tracks. Still experimenting with the loops and samples, this is a slightly more controlled experiment and understandably the standout track on the record.
During the second half of the album the African influences become much more apparent, the instrumental section in ‘Houses in motion’ is a fantastic example of many different musical influences coming together to create a very catchy groove that makes the song great despite some questionable vocal performances.
‘Listening wind’ creates a dark and spacious atmosphere with some slow polyrhythms and very politically driven vocals that still sound relevant today. Some unusually powerful guitar solos help to create a tension that keeps the song interesting for its duration. This atmosphere is carried over in to the album closer ‘The Overlord’, an apocalyptic track in which not much happens musically, but sonically this would sound at home in a movie theatre with very expansive sounds.
Overall ‘Remain In Light’ is a fantastic fusion of sounds that is now unmistakably ‘Talking Heads’, every track is interesting enough to keep you listening and provides an eccentric example of what music can be when the boundaries are removed and experimentation becomes a key part of the writing process.
This Talking Heads article was written by Harrison Moore, a GIGsoup contributor