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From The Vault: Talking Heads – Speaking In Tongues

Matthew Byrne revisits the Rock classic.


Released May 1983

Sire Records

In contrast to some of the decadent rock and roll music around in the 70’s, the Talking Heads provided an alternative option with a smarter quirkier way of doing things. They lead the way in visual art rock changing the way bands approached their live shows and music videos. After their collaboration with Brian Eno that spawned three albums, amongst them ‘Remain in Light’ (which many consider to be the group’s piece de resistance) David Byrne and co came back with Speak in Tongues.

Released in 1983 via record label Sire, Speaking in Tongues is a heart warming effort where the Talking Heads moved past the darker territory they delved into with Brian Eno and came back in a more playful mood ready to make everyone groove. This record is inundated with instant hits such as ‘Girlfriend is better’ and ‘Burning down the House’ -they were awarded their first top ten hit for the latter.

The song ‘Girlfriend is Better’ is synonymous with David Byrne’s gigantic suit in the Stop Making Sense Live recording and during the song he yelps “As we get older we stop making sense”- a prime example of the simple but memorable lines that resonate with you throughout this record. David’s in a boastful mood about his great girlfriend but it seems getting older complicates matters when other people get involved.

On ‘Flippy Floppy’ the scratchy guitars combine with an infectious bass line from long standing bassist Tina Weymouth, to give the song a bounce and verve that transcends into a warped kind of space jam thanks to the flamboyant guitar solo by David.

After fooling around throughout the album, the last song ‘This must be the place’ sits a long side efforts like Heaven as another beautiful ballad crafted by the group. It consists of a slow building rhythm from Chris Frantz and a squeaky synth that helps to create a joyous melody. David Byrne’s vocals are heartier and provide a sweeter sound compared to the jerky nature of his voice in other songs.

It’s a somewhat reflective end to a playful album that’s touted with the notion that we’ve all got plenty of time to feel at home and comfortable with ourselves. What is clear though is that when the Talking Heads released this album, they were certainly comfortable in their own shoes musically and nothing is better than that.