The O-town Scene

March 10, 2011

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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Vinyl Vault Talking Heads ‘Remain in Light’ Sire Records, 1980 On the cover of Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light,” red blotted-out faces stare through masks directly at you. They stare defiantly at the new decade ahead, proud of their work in the previous one and contemplating impending changes. This album is a paean to the future, unlike anything that came before it and unlike anything that has come since. It is rare for a successful band to flirt so openly with the avant-garde and retain mass appeal, yet “Remain in Light” is (and always has been) an essential record, a must-listen. It is truly pop music at its best. Singer David Byrne and producer Brian Eno, who had produced the previous two Talking Heads records, may have laid claim to this re- cord, but it is truly a much larger collab- orative effort. Recorded between Nassau, Ba- hamas, and New York City, and embellished while Byrne battled writers’ block during vocal recording, the personnel eventually swelled to 10 musi- cians, including experimental guitarist Adrian Belew and soul singer Nona Hendryx. Despite the crowded lineup, Eno stands out everywhere in this record. He sings in every song, and his synthesizer soundscapes push the record along. He is clearly more influenced by his recent production work with disparate groups like DEVO, David Bowie The lyrics are not morbid or pessimistic, but precise and detached, as artificial as possible. and New York avant-punk groups like DNA and Contortions than his work on the previ- ous two Talking Heads records. The partner- ship between Byrne and Eno was so intense during recording that the other members of the band threatened to quit for lack of cre- ative control. This tension is not apparent in the music, however; it is well hidden behind a digital veneer. This is a true hybrid album. Byrne _ influ- enced by African music theory, the rhythm of early hip-hop and the vocables of chant _ creates a rhythmic style unlike anything heard before in pop. The cover was created on MIT image software, and the music was recorded and sampled on the newest IBM computers, both unheard of at the time. Byrne’s lyrics read like J.G. Ballard’s dark landscapes, lack- ing definition between man and machine, the artificial and the organic. The lyrics are not morbid or pessimistic, but precise and detached, as artificial as possible. The record is best known for the song “Once In A Lifetime,” which became popular after the release of its distinctive music video, and again years later after the release of a live version on the “Stop Making Sense” record. This entire record has an appeal that transcends momentary musical trends. The 1980s saw the emergence of hip-hop on a global scale, the advent of world music and the domination of pop by electronic music. Talking Heads’ “Remain In Light” uncannily anticipates these events at the dawn of the decade and does so without sounding like a product of its era. It is electronic music with a human touch, a composite of disparate genres and ideas that cre- ates something completely different. Still new after three decades, still staring defiantly. _ James Derek Sapienza Featured Artist Dispatch PARTIAL PLAYLIST 1. Elias 2. 3. 4. 5. Each week, SUNY Oneonta-based NPR affiliate WUOW features a worthy musician in its Friday Night Featured Artist radio program from 8 to 9 p.m. at 104.7 FM in Oneonta and online at The General Out loud Bang Bang Riddle Dispatch, college favorite indie jam band from Vermont, is this week’s fea- tured artist. The group gained popular- ity in the ’90s through word of mouth and funk/reggae/rock anthems like “The General.” March 10, 2011 O-Town Scene 15

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