Speaking in Tongues
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2006, Volume 13, #3
Written by John Metzger
Sometimes, side projects can spread a band too thin. In the case of Talking Heads, the distractions made the group even better, at least initially. After concocting the exquisite but emotionally draining Remain in Light, the members of Talking Heads embarked upon a series of solo projects. On The Red and The Black, Jerry Harrison coaxed complex rhythms from his layers of synthesizers; Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz transformed Remain in Lightís blend of world beats and urban funk into the bright pop of Tom Tom Clubís self-titled debut; and David Byrne sharpened his ability to inspire movement through music by crafting the score for The Catherine Wheel, a dance piece by Twyla Tharp. The common denominator behind all of these pursuits, of course, was the propulsive grooves that underscored them, and Talking Headsí fifth studio effort Speaking in Tongues effectively incorporated all of these sojourns into its essence.
If Remain in Light proved that Talking Heads didnít need to sound quite so fidgety, Speaking in Tongues demonstrated that it could craft its own, distinctive brand of pop music that was suitable for a dance floor. Although Byrneís lyrics still retained, however cryptically, the sense of distrust, isolation, and fear that had become his calling card, they also were somewhat lighter in tone. As a result, the claustrophobic air that had settled upon the bandís previous two endeavors was lifted, and the materialís playful, pulsating presence was what ultimately mattered most. Augmenting its line-up with a host of musicians that included a pair of keyboard players (session man Wally Badarou and Parliament-Funkadelicís Bernie Worrell) as well as an array of percussionists, the group utilized every instrument at its disposal to create an intoxicating stream of hard-driving, tight-knit funk that was broken only by the considerably unsettling I Get Wild/Wild Gravity, the blues-y strut of Swamp, and the tranquil romanticism of This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody). Throughout the set, springy keyboard textures brushed against rattling guitars, and squiggly synthesizers darted through Making Flippy Floppy, while on Moon Rocks, they painted psychedelic trails across the songís percolating groove.
Given the myriad of sonic effects that splatter the contents of Speaking in Tongues, its incarnation as a surround sound DUALDISC is undeniably rewarding. As synthesizers and guitars bounce through the mix, they increasingly envelop the listener. Even so, itís the gravitational pull of the underlying rhythms that make the set so irresistible. As an added bonus, the CD side includes an alternate version of Burning Down the House as well as the unfinished outtake Two Note Swivel, while the DVD side includes a pair of quirky videos (Burning Down the House and This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) plus an alternate, 5.1 channel version of Burning Down the House that was created expressly for this reissue.
Of Further Interest...
Speaking in Tongues is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box