tag: Talking Heads



11
Jan 2013

The two ‘David B’s

This week, quite rightly, the media has been buzzing with news of the return of David Bowie. His first new material in a decade was released, quite unexpectedly, on Tuesday; his 66th birthday. The song – Where Are We Now? – is a lovely, melancholy meditation on lost youth. Filled with references to Berlin, where Bowie himself spent several years in the 1970s, it was produced by Tony Visconti who – along with Bowie and Brian Eno – formed the Holy Trinity responsible for the three late-70s albums that (in my personal opinion) represent the pinnacle of Bowie’s creative output. I know that sounds like I’m saying he “peaked” with “Heroes”, Low and Lodger and then went into decline. But that’s not how I see it. Yes, there was something of a trough in the 1980s, but 1.Outside in the mid-90s saw him once again climb creative heights rarely visited by others and of the four 90s / early noughties albums that followed, only Hours was less than brilliant (both Earthling and Heathen are grossly underrated and Reality has some stonking songs on it though you might argue there’s some filler there too).

The new single is to be followed by an album in March (called The Next Day) which I am eagerly anticipating. And while well-publicised health problems suggest he may not tour the new songs, we can still hope against hope. Right? As well as the inevitable cooing from die-hard fans (of which I am one and for which I make no apology) there have been other responses. Thanks to the internet, you can read the views of the cynics and the compulsive denigrators just as easily as the views of the die-hard fans. Which is fine. If people genuinely don’t like Bowie, or genuinely find the new song lacking in some way then they are just as entitled to express that opinion as people like myself who are excited about it. Mind you, a lot of the criticism I’ve encountered smacks somewhat of deliberate contrarianism. It comes from the same sort of people who tell you The Beatles never wrote a good tune, Citizen Kane is overrated and insist they don’t understand the phrase “best thing since sliced bread” because frankly sliced bread is shit.

And you know what, those folk are also just as entitled to express their opinion. I find it a little sad that people actively seek the sensation of jadedness – something I seem to spend a whole lot of time battling – but I don’t have to live their lives so let them at it… I’m not looking for repressive legislation on the matter.

Anyway, here’s the new single (along with the odd video). If you’ve not already heard it, I hope you like it as much as I do. I found myself humming it after just one listen and yet I’d still describe it as “a grower” because I’m enjoying it more and more with each new hearing.

The other David B

In my personal musical universe there’s probably only one other person who rivals David Bowie for the top spot (luckily my musical universe is polytheistic in nature, so they don’t need to fight it out). And that’s David Byrne. Like Bowie, David Byrne’s finest hour was quite a while ago – and perhaps not at all coincidentally – also involved Brian Eno. I’m speaking of course about Remain In Light, the greatest album ever recorded.

Also like Bowie, however, that didn’t represent a “peak” from which there was only a long decline ahead. No, like Bowie’s Low, Remain In Light was simply the tallest tree in a forest of redwoods. His career since Talking Heads has been generally overlooked by the mainstream (with the occasional exception… his Oscar for The Last Emperor soundtrack being one such exception) but is no less because of it. So when I read a review of last year’s Love This Giant (a collaboration with St. Vincent) that described the album as “a return to form” I was genuinely mystified. You can’t return to something you never left, and Byrne has been “on form” pretty much since 1977. Whether it was his work with Talking Heads, his solo stuff, his collaborations (with Eno, Fat Boy Slim, St. Vincent and others) or his many books, films and installations; Byrne has consistently brought joy, light, wonder and a great rhythm section to my life.

Love This Giant is another wonderful record. The heavy use of “heavy brass” gives it quite a distinctive sound, setting it apart from most of his other work (excluding, of course, his album of brass band compositions – Music For The Knee Plays). In fact it contains a song (I Should Watch TV) that rocketed straight into my top 10 Byrne tracks and which I listen to regularly. How pleasing, therefore, that it appears on the short live concert by Byrne and St. Vincent that’s just been released by NPR. I recommend the entire gig as it showcases a genuinely wonderful album while throwing in a couple of older tracks. But if you’ve only got a few minutes, then skip ahead to 24:40 and listen to the glorious I Should Watch TV.

3 comments  |  Posted in: Media » Video, Reviews » Music reviews


20
Jun 2012

The ethics of music downloads

I’ve just read a couple of articles which got me thinking about the ethics of downloading (this one by Emily White attempting to justify her massive music collection – none of which she paid for; and this one by David Lowery in response). It’s a subject I’ve thought about quite a lot over the years… I remember the first incarnation of Napster, and prior to that I can even recall swapping rare tracks person-to-person across the IRC network. So I was there right at the start of digital downloads. Before that, I put together plenty of mix-CDs for friends. I remember, for example, sometime in the 90s putting together a David Byrne compilation CD complete with a fairly lengthy companion ‘zine containing lyrics, facts about the songs and personal observations. It was a proper labour of love. And back even before that, I vividly recall spending hours making the perfect mix-tape… an often lengthy process for the music-obsessed.

And it’s fair to say that over the years I received my share of such mix tapes and CDs. They were an important part of my life. Sharing music with friends was hugely significant to me. Notably however, my circle of friends all had very large record (and later, CD) collections. I can’t speak for others, but in my case music probably represented my single largest financial outlay. Even back in the days when I was working in industry and earning a fair chunk of change, I was probably spending more on music than on rent, or food, or any other single thing.

Home Taping Never Killed MusicIn that respect, the sharing of music that I and my friends engaged in was – in a very real sense – promoting the spending of money on music. When my friend P gave me that C90 of Talking Heads songs back in the mid-80s, there’s no sense in which David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz or Jerry Harrison lost out. Since that day I have bought the band’s entire catalogue three times (first on vinyl, then on CD, then on the digitally remastered CDs). I’ve also bought everything Byrne has released as a solo artist (including all the mail-order only stuff); I’ve bought the Tom Tom Club records; I’ve bought tickets to see Byrne perform live on every European tour he’s done since the early 1990s; I’ve bought a t-shirt at almost all of those gigs; I’ve bought his books; I’ve bought his DVDs.

And all of that was triggered by that first technically-illegal mix-tape. “Home Taping Is Killing Music” indeed!

In fact when I first started downloading music through IRC or Napster or Limewire, it was only to get hold of tracks that couldn’t be purchased from the artist. A live bootleg of David Byrne performing Sympathy for The Devil… an unreleased studio out-take from Bowie’s Low… an early Legendary Pink Dots track from an out-of-print EP only available on long-deleted cassette… a The The b-side that was impossible to track down in physical form (and believe me, I searched… I was one of those slightly mad looking blokes in long black coats who would attend record fairs). Whatever you may feel about the ethics of downloading music for free, in those cases I just don’t see the problem. I’d already bought most (if not all) of the recorded output of those artists – including that 10″ version of ‘The Beat(en) Generation’ in the cardboard box with the postcards and badge. I’d rush down to my local record store on the day of release, in the hope of getting my hands on the red vinyl pressing of a Siouxsie and The Banshees single I would buy on standard black vinyl anyway. Hell I even used to scour those endless lists in small-print in Record Collector magazine and excitedly write a £30 cheque for a Japanese import of an album I already owned because it had a different sleeve and an extra track.

Sad. Sad. Sad.

So yes, when music began to appear for free on the internet I didn’t have a huge ethical issue with grabbing that live bootleg, or this rare b-side. It wasn’t that I felt the artist or record company owed me anything for my years of devotion and financial outlay… I just didn’t think they’d begrudge me (of all people!) the opportunity to get hold of those rare tracks.

Then however, things started to change. Broadband replaced dial-up and suddenly it was possible to grab entire albums for free. Today, a person can type “The Beatles” into a torrent search and download the entire back catalogue in a matter of minutes. And yes, I admit, there was a short period of time when I too found myself caught up in this madness. I’d already paid for about half of Bob Marley’s albums, why not just grab the other half? What could it hurt? And then… well I really like that one track off that one album by that bloke… let’s download his entire recorded output.

And then I thought… hang on a minute. What the hell am I doing? I still don’t see anything wrong with finding that rare deleted single and grabbing it if it’s not available on iTunes – though that’s an increasingly rare occurrence with so much stuff being available from legitimate online stores these days. And I still don’t think sending a compilation CD – or even a copy of some especially great new album – to a friend is a bad thing. It doesn’t happen that often any more, but when it does I honestly see it as an important form of promotion for the artist(s) in question… just like that Talking Heads C90 back in the day. Where possible I try to purchase directly from the artist’s website rather than iTunes of course (no need to give a cut to Apple if you can give it all to the artist) and I still like to browse the few remaining record shops and buy something physical – throwback that I am.

But the notion of downloading entire back catalogues is just wrong. There’s no sense in which that can possibly help the artist. They will never receive any compensation from you for whatever they’ve added to your life. And enough people are doing it now that it’s having a genuinely negative effect on the prospect of many artists. I’m not going to quote numbers or statistics, but I suggest you read David Lowery’s excellent article to set yourself straight if you’re one of those people who believe mass downloading is having no impact on artists.

But Illegal Downloading Still MightBesides, I want to pay for the good stuff because it means the artist is more likely to make more of it. No, I don’t want to pay for the bad stuff… but I don’t even want to listen to that, so why download it? There’s a case to be made for “try before you buy”… just like the long-lamented listening posts in record shops (or even better, the local record store where you knew the guy behind the counter and he’d gladly play whatever record you wanted to hear over the speaker system). But YouTube fulfils that function these days – perhaps to the annoyance of some artists – but there you have it. Want to know whether the new Kate Bush record is a return to form… listen to a couple of tracks on YouTube and then buy the record from her website if you like them (album available as a high bitrate lossless download, or as a lovely crafted package if you’re old-school). There’s no actual need to download the entire album for free just to check it out. If you don’t think you’d like it, then why do that anyway? And if you do think it will enrich your life, doesn’t the artist deserve to be able to make a living?

So yes, I did go through a brief phase of mass downloading. And I’m not proud of it. But ultimately I realised my actions were fundamentally unethical (and in my defence, I’d already paid my dues as far as music-purchasing was concerned, so maybe I can be forgiven my temporary lapse). More worrying though is not my generation – many of whom I suspect could tell very similar stories to mine – no, it’s the new generation of music-lovers who never experienced the genuine joy of buying that slice of wonderfully packaged vinyl and rushing home to be delighted by it. Even the CD didn’t kill that experience (though it was never quite as good). But the digital download? It just doesn’t feel like an “artefact” (because let’s face it, it’s not). As such, it’s difficult to place as much value on it. If limitless quantities of the finest champagne was available in every home on tap, for free, how long before it seemed vaguely worthless?

And that’s what’s happening to music. Even hardcore music fans of the current generation can’t help but hold the art-form in considerably lower esteem than those of us who had no option but to buy it. And who got something physical – something we could feel and pore over – in return for our money. The loss of that tactile experience is, I believe, directly related to the loss of value that seems to have beset the musical output of even the greatest artists. I know I sound terribly old-fashioned when I say that, but I do think it’s true. And no, I don’t know how to solve the problem. But I do feel it is a problem, and it’s one that needs to be solved if we want our artists to continue creating great music.

3 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion


11
Feb 2012

Decades

I glanced at my twitter timeline and noticed the following tweet

Anyone who says the 80′s was the best decade for music needs to be shot. By a firing squad #BBC4

@J___Williamson | twitter

I assumed from the #BBC4 hashtag that there was some 80s music documentary being broadcast, but taken at face value (obvious comedy hyperbole aside) I realised I wasn’t entirely sure whether I’d be up before that firing squad or not. If asked to name a favourite decade, musically speaking, my immediate reaction would be to say “the 70s”. But when I gave it a bit more thought (probably considerably more than @J___Williamson meant her tweet to be subjected to) I realised that – assuming we start “the 80s” in 1980 – rather than 1981 as some are wont to do – then it’s fair to say that my favourite album of all time is an 80s album (Remain in Light by Talking Heads). In fact, a huge amount of my favourite music was released during the 1980s.

Remain in Light1980 also saw the release of Joy Division’s Closer. It was the year of Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, of Autoamerican and of Heartattack And Vine. And the decade that followed saw the entire career of The Smiths and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. It saw Tom Waits move from good to great and on into godlike. The 80s saw Prince at his peak. And what a peak that was. There are moments on Sign ‘O’ The Times that still send shivers down my spine despite the familiarity of 25 years of regular play. It was the decade that brought us the best of The Cure, of The The, of Kate Bush and of The Cocteau Twins. And it was the decade that kicked off the careers of Nick Cave, The Legendary Pink Dots and World Party.

Right at the heart of the decade, 1985 saw the release of Around The World in a Day, Asylum, Don’t Stand Me Down, The Firstborn is Dead, Head on The Door, Hounds Of Love, Hunting High And Low, Little Creatures, Low-Life, Meat Is Murder, Rain Dogs, Suzanne Vega, and Thursday Afternoon. That’s a pretty diverse list of albums… and each one’s a corker in its own way. What’s more, there’s not a year in the 1980s that doesn’t have just as fine a list attached to it.

Then, as the 80s drew to a close, we discovered that It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. We were infused with the Spirit of Eden while we got Naked and Bummed. We got our minds melted by Pixies and My Bloody Valentine as Julee Cruise took us Floating Into The Night, all the while being reminded that The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste.

And you know what…? I’ve not even begun to do the 80s justice. Byrne and Eno’s My Life in The Bush of Ghosts, Peter Gabriel’s So, Paul Simon’s Graceland and Julian Cope’s Fried all helped make the decade what it was. There were seminal records from Siouxsie and the Banshees, R.E.M., and I’m even prepared to put in a good word for The Joshua Tree which – for all its over-earnest breast-beating – contains some cracking tunes. Sure it was a low point for David Bowie, but elsewhere good music was thriving.

Decades?

But of course, I could make a similar case for the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1990s and even the noughties; though I would probably find that more difficult as I’ve discovered less new music in the past ten years. Probably a result of advancing age as well as having an already extremely extensive record collection that does its best to crowd out new releases (there are, after all, only so many hours in the day). Actually, it’s not ten years… looking at my media player, it appears that my discovery of new albums tapers off somewhat in 2007. There’s still a handful each year after that, but nothing like as many as there once was.

As it happens, I have a theory that music has become less culturally important in the past few years and – as a result – there’s less great stuff being produced (“less” not “none”). I’m not sure that theory stands up to scrutiny… though it’d be a good discussion to have over a few pints of Guinness.

Then, as I began to mentally put together the case for the 1970s, it struck me just how arbitrary the “decade” distinction is. It’s a cultural shorthand that extends far beyond music of course, but it tends to be used most frequently in that arena. Most albums released in 1989 have far more in common with the music of 1992 than they do with the music of 1982. There are records from 1979 and from 1991 that – to all intents and purposes – qualify as 80s music. And there are records from the early 80s that tend to be seen as part of the 1970s. The same is true for all decades. The Beatles were a 1960s band even if Let It Be was released in 1970. Hell, I think of The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan as being “of the sixties” even though the majority of their output – quantitatively speaking – came afterwards. And I don’t know where the hell Van Morrison fits in. Astral Weeks (“best album ever recorded except when Remain In Light is” tm) was released in 1968, but is essentially timeless, and damn near everything else he did came post-1970.

On top of that, there’s the fact that the truly great music of every decade… of every year… is massively outweighed in terms of sheer volume, by the truly awful. Or the merely uninteresting. For every I’m Your Man or Lovesexy there are a dozen of Hold Me in Your Arms and Kylie. Two dozen.

So does it even make sense to talk about whether the music of the 90s is better than the music of the 80s? Certainly Bone Machine and Henry’s Dream are better albums than White Feathers and Blackout. But you could just as easily choose Wet Wet Wet and Bryan Adams as your representatives of the 1990s, and… well… they’re no Prince or The Smiths.

In fact, you just have to compare Prince to… er… Prince. The 80s really come out of that one smiling.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that – when all’s said and done – there’s a pretty simple way to identify precisely when music was at its very best. Ask yourself the following question… “When was my 21st birthday?” Now, take the five years before that. Take the five years after. Add them together and you have the best decade for music. See? Simple. And no firing squads required.

8 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion, Reviews » Music reviews


25
Feb 2011

Something for the (election) weekend

In honour of the most important election in recent Irish history…

… stealing all our dreams…

Found out this morning
There’s a circus coming to town
They drive in Cadillacs
Using walkie-talkies, and the Secret Service

Their big top: Imitation of life
And all the flags and microphones
They have to cover our eyes

We play the sideshows
And we like the tunnel of love
And when we ride the ferris wheel
We’re little children again

And when they’re asking for volunteers
We’ll be the first ones aboard
And when the ringmaster calls our names
We’ll be the first ones to go… to sleep

Stealing all our dreams
Dreams for sale
They sell ‘em back to you

On with the show
Start the parade
We sang along
Sweep us away

It’s political party time
Going down, going down
And the celebrities all come out
Coming down, coming down, coming…

The sun is going down
And the dogs are starting to howl
We stay out after dark
Eating cotton candy
And the music’s playing…

How we all laughed!
We split our sides
The cameras flashed
We almost died!

The rain’s gonna pour on down, falling out of the sky
Coming down, coming down
And the celebrities all run out, and the rain’s
Coming down, coming down

Gonna rain,
Gonna rain, gonna rain
Gonna rain, gonna rain,
Rain, rain
Rain, rain

And now I wonder who’s boss
And who he’s leavin’ behind?

Talking Heads: The Democratic Circus

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31
Mar 2006

Talking Heads: Remain In Light

Darwin be damned! This is why we evolved ears. No “adapting to our environment” / “survival of the versatile” bullshit. The surround mix of Remain In Light on 5.1 speakers and big beefy bass acted as a ‘Strange Attractor’… a retroactive enchantment cast upon all of human history… shaping biology and culture backwards through the millennia – coaxing eardrums from the depths of our DNA – in order that this experience may exist.

By which I mean, this is a good album.

Remain In Light was the first album I ever bought. It’s still, to my ears, one of the finest albums ever recorded. Which is a lovely stroke of luck. My first single was Ray Parker Junior’s Ghostbusters.

Remain in Light

Aaaanyways, Remain In Light was first released in 1980 and for me is the band’s finest achievement. Which is not to say they went downhill after they stopped working with Brian Eno, merely a different direction. Indeed, as 1981′s My Life In The Bush of Ghosts demonstrated, the direction being taken by Eno and David Byrne had its logical extension in something that wasn’t a Talking Heads record. And although the close collaboration between Eno and Byrne (to the point where Eno is co-writer of the album, and is an instrumentalist or vocalist on pretty much every track) led to friction within the band, Remain In Light is still very much a Talking Heads record… the natural next step after the previous year’s Fear of Music.

But why am I reviewing it now? It was released in 1980, and I bought it in 1986. Is there anything beyond it being “a good album” to justify this entry?

Digitally Remastered and Remixed in 5.1 Surround Sound

Really? And that’s good then is it?

Oh yes. Dear Lord yes. I’ve often thought to myself when listening to The White Album, or Astral Weeks, or Horses or Remain In Light… “wouldn’t it be amazing to hear this again for the first time?” And now, thanks to the wonders of modern sound mixing technology, I damn near can.

Remain In Light, with the entire Talking Heads back catalogue, has been re-released. Now, I’m often sceptical about re-releases (Bowie, for instance, is on the verge of taking the piss) but there’s no doubt that the sound reproduction on early CDs was often very shoddy, and remastering using the latest technology can overcome that. Plus, when coupled with a complete remix by a member of the band (i.e. someone who was present at the original recordings and has an idea of the sound they were trying to achieve), the process can radically improve an album, lifting individual instruments out of a muddy wall of sound and giving them the clarity and definition they had during actual recording.

As with the other albums, Remain In Light now consists of two discs… a CD and a DVD. The CD contains the digitally remastered version, plus a handful of unreleased tracks / outtakes. The DVD contains the original album, digitally remastered and remixed in 5.1 surround sound, plus a handful of previously unreleased performance videos. All in all it’s fair to say they’ve tried to offer enough additional material to justify buying the albums a third time (if, like me, you started buying music in the era of vinyl and cassette).

Certainly I’m a big enough (or foolish enough) fan to buy the re-issues on the strength of the remastering alone, but even for casual fans the audio quality is noticeably and significantly better and the bonus material is excellent. The four unfinished outtakes on Remain In Light‘s CD do fall a little short of “new songs”. But close to twenty minutes of new music from some truly historic recording sessions isn’t to be sniffed at… from the super-tight Fela’s Riff; the intensity of which leaves no space for vocals; to the Eno dominated Unison and the sublime Right Start which – judging by the presence of that bassline – was the seed that grew into Once In A Lifetime.

Hardcore fans of the band will be fascinated by what amounts to a glimpse of the creative process in action. Others will just dig the grooves.

It’s difficult to put into the words the difference in sound quality. Words like “richer” and “warmer” convey a sense of the change, but don’t really capture it. Everything is clearer – with entire new lyrics emerging from beneath layers of instrumentation – yet nothing is out of place. The songs don’t fragment into mere collections of channels, but hold their cohesion despite being opened up so radically. It’s a testament to the talent of Andy Zax; producer on the re-issue project; that this is the case.

Hearing something like The Overload in 5.1 surround sound is an unspeakably sublime musical experience. I was sceptical that a technology originally developed to allow positional sound for Hollywood action blockbusters would genuinely add anything to an album or piece of music. But add it does. If I were to say something like, “it allows you to feel like you’re inside the music”, I’d just sound like a brochure for 5.1 technology. You simply have to hear it for yourself… assuming you have the appropriate speaker setup.

But what about the songs?

Even though the reason for this review is the remastering, remixing and rerelease, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to say something about the album itself. Just what makes this one of the finest albums ever recorded?

Remain In Light marks the end of Talking Heads transition from spikey New York art punks into the most intelligent and eclectic band of their era; drawing influences from Africa and South America as well as from closer to home; mixing rhythms from around the world with soul, jazz, rock, pop, funk and country… and adding a generous dash of European motorische / krautrock to the mix.

It’s remarkable that such a dark and brooding wash of electronics as the album’s final track The Overload could exist without incongruity on an album that also contains the sheer funky exuberance of The Great Curve with its glorious refrain… “The world moves on a woman’s hips / the world moves and it swivels and bops / the world moves on a woman’s hips / the world moves and it bounces and hops”. The Overload is like Joy Division at their very best, while The Great Curve is like… well, like nothing else you’ve heard, but if Sly and The Family Stone ever did punk, it might sound a little bit like it. That Remain In Light still makes perfect sense as a complete album blows me away every time.

The aforementioned My Life In The Bush of Ghosts can be heard emerging from several of the tracks on Remain In Light, not least the famous swirling “preaching” of Once In A Lifetime. Of course, although the lyrics of Once In A Lifetime are all lifted from sermons that Byrne heard on evangelical radio stations, the song isn’t about preaching… it’s about epiphany, about the moment of revelation.

And if the album had a common lyrical theme (it’s stretching it a little to claim that it does), then it would be just that… revelation, epiphany, realisation… unexpected understanding. The album’s heart lies in the two tracks Seen And Not Seen and The Listening Wind which foreshadow the approaching Overload. In The Listening Wind we are presented with a glimpse into the heart of an anti-American / anti-capitalist terrorist, Mojique… planting bombs and lying low waiting for news of the explosions. Yet Mojique’s story is told with empathy, warmth and even romance…

Mojique sees his village from a nearby hill
Mojique thinks of days before Americans came
He sees the foreigners in growing numbers
He sees the foreigners in fancy houses
He thinks of days that he can still remember… now.

Mojique holds a package in his quivering hands
Mojique sends the package to the American man
Softly he glides along the streets and alleys
Up comes the wind that makes them run for cover
He feels the time is surely now or never… more.

The wind in my heart
The wind in my heart
The dust in my head
The dust in my head
The wind in my heart
The wind in my heart
(come to) drive them away
Drive them away.

Mojique buys equipment in the market place
Mojique plants devices in the free trade zone
He feels the wind is lifting up his people
He calls the wind to guide him on his mission
He knows his friend the wind is always standing… by.

Mojique smells the wind that comes from far away
Mojique waits for news in a quiet place
He feels the presence of the wind around him
He feels the power of the past behind him
He has the knowledge of the wind to guide him… on.

The wind in my heart
The wind in my heart
The dust in my head
The dust in my head
The wind in my heart
The wind in my heart
(come to) drive them away
Drive them away.

The Listening Wind | Lyrics: David Byrne

Even back when Remain In Light was released, the notion that terrorists could be viewed sympathetically in popular music was an uncomfortable one. These days it’s positively subversive. But Byrne has never shirked from tackling the uncomfortable subjects… indeed it seems to be where he’s at his best; paradoxically where he’s most comfortable. Even today, with direct attacks on the Bush administration in songs like Empire (from his most recent album, Grown Backwards) and even more direct attacks from his blog, he’s – thankfully – not an artist ever likely to be cowed by political pressure.

Just prior to The Listening Wind, however, is the unsettling Seen And Not Seen… exploring the alienation and psychosocial distortion created by the mediation of culture and experience… the song is a gloriously hypnotic bass and percussion line, over which Byrne blankly recites the words… the creepiness of the opening lines… “he would see faces in movies, on TV, in magazines, and in books. He thought that some of these faces might be right for him.” never lets up. Right to the final few words left hanging within the relentless rhythms… “He wonders if he too might have made a similar mistake…….”

Just left hanging there.

There’s not a single bad track on Remain In Light. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that there’s not a song on the album that isn’t a classic. The handful of albums which qualify as “essential” often – though not always – possess that quality. If you don’t already own this album, then this new release is the perfect excuse to check it out. And you can trust me when I say that from an audio-quality standpoint, it’s a huge improvement over the original release.

For those who already own Remain In Light, it’s a little more complicated. By themselves, the extra tracks probably don’t justify the cost unless you’re a big fan. Don’t get me wrong, the bonus material is great to have, but it’s not the reason to buy the rerelease (I’ve spent far, far more time listening to the original album on 5.1 speakers than I have listening to the extra tracks or watching the videos). I would say this though; if you believe it’s a great album, then the remastering is worth buying it again for. It’s almost like hearing it for the first time.

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