The only Talking Heads album I'm familiar with, and everything about it screams "achingly cool". As highly rhythm-based music often does, especially African-flavoured stuff. It's a brilliantly distinctive crossover, weaving intricate webs from the percussion polyrhythms, electronic tweaks, and funky slap bass. David Byrne's jerky vocal theatrics and the slinky backing choruses also rack up the cool points. The deservedly most famous number "Once In a Lifetime" is an absorbing perpetual motion pop song, decorated with a glittering curtain of bleeps.
The second half of the album is less hyperactive than the first, but just as compelling. "Houses in Motion" is coloured by Jon Hassell's breathy trumpet trickery. When they turn down the beats they can write a strikingly pretty melody, as on "Listening Wind" (which sounds like an influence for King Crimson's "Matte Kudasai"). "The Overload" isn't too far from Joy Division, Byrne's groans and the sinister electronic throb reminding us we're still in the post-punk era. I know critics dribble over this kind of stuff but they're mostly spot on here.
September 19, 2004