Talking Heads: 77 [DualDisc]

by: Talking Heads

Though they were the most highly touted new wave band to emerge from the CBGB's scene in New York, it was not clear at first whether Talking Heads' Lower East Side art rock approach could make the subway ride to the Midtown pop mainstream successfully. The leadoff track of the debut album, Talking Heads: 77, "Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town," was a pop song that emphasized the group's unlikely roots in late-'60s bubblegum, Motown, and Caribbean music. But "Uh-Oh" gave away the group's game early, with its nervous, disconnected lyrics and David Byrne's strained voice. All pretenses of normality were abandoned by the second track, as Talking Heads finally started to sound on record the way they did downtown: the staggered rhythms and sudden tempo changes, the odd guitar tunings and rhythmic, single-note patterns, the non-rhyming, nonlinear lyrics that came across like odd remarks overheard from a psychiatrist's couch, and that voice, singing above its normal range, its falsetto leaps and strangled cries resembling a madman trying desperately to sound normal. Talking Heads threw you off balance, but grabbed your attention with a sound that seemed alternately threatening and goofy. The music was undeniably catchy, even at its most ominous, especially on "Psycho Killer," Byrne's supreme statement of demented purpose. Amazingly, that song made the singles chart for a few weeks, evidence of the group's quirky appeal, but the album was not a big hit, and it remained unclear whether Talking Heads spoke only the secret language of the urban arts types or whether that could be translated into the more common tongue of hip pop culture. In any case, they had succeeded as artists, using existing elements in an unusual combination to create something new that still managed to be oddly familiar. And that made Talking Heads: 77 a landmark album. [In the fall of 2005, Talking Heads' catalog was finally remastered and reissued as DualDiscs, containing a CD on one side and a DVD with 5.1 mixes, along with bonus video material, on the other. Initially, the DualDiscs were only available as a box set, but in 2006, the albums were reissued individually as digipacks (the box set contained all white jewel cases). Talking Heads: 77 has the singles "Love = Building on Fire" and "I Wish You Wouldn't Say That," plus the B-side acoustic version of "Psycho Killer" and "Sugar on My Tongue," which previously appeared on Sand in the Vaseline; there's also a good previously unreleased outtake of an early song called "I Feel It in My Heart," which is on the DVD side as a compelling video performance of the band playing at the Kitchen in 1976 as well, while there's also a video of the group live in 1978 playing "Pulled Up."] ~ William Ruhlmann

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