Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wearing Our Grandfather's Clothes


Original Facebook post here.
Today's formative-album replay: Naked. When you come late to a band, as I did with the Talking Heads, the first new record they put out after you've become a fan occupies a special place--not necessarily the top spot, but something more immediate and intimate, more yours, than the well-thumbed back catalogue you've caught up with. With me and Paul Simon, it was Hearts and Bones; with Elvis Costello, King of America; with Randy Newman, Land of Dreams; and so on. It was my mixed blessing to get into the Heads just before they imploded, and there's a strong argument that this, their final record, is essentially the first David Byrne solo album, given the remote and reportedly autocratic way it was created.

There are other issues with this record, too: It is bisected even more starkly than, say, Joshua Tree, between a brilliant Side A and a harder-to-love Side B--and in this case, the unlovability of such filler as "Big Daddy" and "Facts of Life" is a strong counterweight to the album's charms.

But oh, those charms: The Latin brass, funk, reggae, and country flavors that come together in the album's best tracks make them among the sweetest, bubblingest brews in their discography. And I'd argue back re: the Byrne-vs.-Heads creative ratio here that, as with Sting and the Police, or even Lennon and McCartney, you can guage what was lost when Byrne shed fellow bandmates Frantz, Weymouth, and Harrison by the relative wan-ness of most of his subsequent solo efforts. No question, the Heads' rep rests soundly on their first four records and on "Stop Making Sense," but I wouldn't give up the best of Naked for the world.

Comments:
Jimb Fisher I've always found it a frustrating listen for all the reasons you outlined. "Blind," however, could be my favorite Heads tune.
Justin Warner Love "Blind." "(Nothing But) Flowers" another favorite, and "The Democratic Circus" when I'm in the mood. Watching "Stop Making Sense" on VHS made me a lifelong fan, though.

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