October 23, 2021

Album Of The Week: The 41st Anniversary Of ‘Remain In Light’ By Talking Heads

On the 8th October 1980 Talking Heads released not only one of their most significant albums but also one of the most significant albums of the last 50 years when they released their fourth album, Remain In Light. Only 14 months after Talking Heads had released their very well received third album, Fear Of Music, David Byrne and his band were back with possibly the greatest album they ever made. Bryne and Eno worked their magic to deliver up an extraordinary album that has not only stood the test of time extremely well but also one that has inspired countless artists in it’s incredible wake.

David Byrne’s imagination, coupled with some outstanding arrangements and production, give up an album that was truly groundbreaking at the time. Inspired by African rhythms, and in particular the work of Afro-Beat pioneer Fela Kuti, Remain In Light brought to the fore a musical landscape that was hither to unheard of in mainstream music at the beginning of the 80’s.

Most of the lyrical content on Remain In Light is the articulate and artistic work of front man David Byrne but the lyrics alone are not what distinguishes this album and makes it the tour-de-force that it is. Credit must be given over to the inspirational musicianship of band members Tina Weymouth, Jerry Harrison and Chris Frantz but also to the ‘extras’ who contributed so much as well. The likes of horn player Jon Hassell, vocalist Nona Hendryx and guitarist Adrian Belew (among others) make this album fizz with energy.

Hassell’s iconic brass playing on the third single – Houses In Motion is just superb, it elevates an already incredible piece of music into a sublime, faultless masterpiece. The stop-start of the revolving rhythms and the interjection of Byrne’s vocals are tied together beautifully by Hassell’s jazzy passages.

Jerry Harrison’s looping synth notes coupled with Tina Weymouth’s walking bass line see to it that the final single from Remain In Light, Once In A Lifetime, give David Byrne’s distinctive, conversational lyrics a magical soundtrack. Once In A Lifetime is a song that once heard, you will never forget and never tire of. “And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack, And you may find yourself in another part of the world, And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile, And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?” is a mini novella in itself.

The upbeat, Disco-Funk of Talking Head’s lead single from Remain In Light, Crosseyed And Painless, showcases yet another dimension to the plethora of sounds that are seamlessly introduced and fused together. The album’s opening track Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) is not only a percussive masterclass, it also highlights a deftness of touch and selective restraint that allows the minimal mix to let the song shine without interference. The Great Curve delivers up a frantic and frenzied energy with an infectious beat whilst Seen And Not Seen, and in particular, the ever relevant Listening Wind showcase an altogether softer and reflective side to Talking Heads that is just as potent.

Remain In Light was rightly lauded by critics at the time of it’s release and has subsequently been included in the National Recording Registry by The Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant”. Remain In Light set a new benchmark in terms of creativity and artistry. It is a game changer of an album that still resonates to this day and that is testament to it’s enduring quality and character.

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