New Box Sets: Talking Heads

More than Meets the Eye, EMI

Andy Gill
Friday 19 December 2003 01:00

The arc of Talking Heads' career tells the story of a band that laboured in search of its soul, and having located it, soon lost it again - a journey succinctly documented on this three-CD (plus a DVD compilation of promo videos) retrospective. In their earlier stages, exemplified by the classic "Psycho Killer", Talking Heads were one of the whitest-sounding of bands, even by the unnaturally pale standards of the new-wave era. Driven by the brittle scratching of guitars, their tense, jerky rhythms were untainted by funk, until a brush with Al Green's "Take Me to the River" awakened something blacker and earthier in their music. It took a massive injection of fatback soul from the likes of Bernie Worrell to fully realise this new direction, but the Remain in Light album that resulted was a musical benchmarks of the Eighties, the first successful crossover between the strictly segregated fields of indie rock and dance music. Having made this breakthrough, they coasted: each subsequent album contained a smattering of decent material, but they never again threatened to alter the musical landscape. The dip in quality in the latter stages of this compilation is pronounced, a clear harbinger of the group's imminent dissolution. But the promo-clips DVD is outstanding, featuring some of the most satisfying examples of this mongrel art form.

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