Musicology: In-Depth Album Reviews

Rahsaan Nance Welcome to yet another installment of Musicology, where we take an in-depth listen to great albums. Today’s record is a classic, entitled Remain In Light, from the band Talking Heads. Now, this is going to be a two-part issue. First, we will listen to the original and discuss the songwriting and such, like a typical affair. For the second part, we will listen to Beninese singer Andélique Kidjo’s interpretation, and we will compare and contrast the two works. Without any further ado, let’s get started. Remain in Light’s first track, “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” is a funky, afrobeat-inspired piece carried by bassist Tina Weymouth’s slap lines and drummer Chris Frantz active beats. Frontman David Byrne delivers lyrics of being an unstable ‘government man,’ following the traditions of many other songs in this band’s storied history with social commentary in their music. This time, the lyrics and cadence of the song are loosely based on John Dean’s Watergate testimony. Bleeps, bloops, and funky guitars keep this song’s steady pace as David Byrne’s haunting melodies ring out. Next is “Crosseyed and Painless,” another funk tune, this time dictated by the rock guitars from Byrne and Jerry Harrison, with more world-beat percussion. This track tackles a loss of identity with Byrne’s flow resembling Kurtis Blow’s, another Hip Hop artist of the time. We then enter “The Great Curve,” a song as active as the rest of the album up to this point. The guitar remains prominent, featuring two riveting solos from Adrian Belew, a session musician on this track. The active percussion and contrasting vocal harmonies create something truly unique. Side two of the album begins with “Once in a Lifetime,” a classic from this record. The afrobeat rhythms continue at a more comfortable pace, as Byrne recites a reflection on time and the middle class in a manner somewhere between that of a rapper and that of a preacher, a common theme throughout the album thus far. If you get the chance, be sure to check out the music video. It is quite an experience. Following this is the blaxploitation-esque “Houses in Motion.” More brilliant call and response ensues; more stream-of-consciousness musings in a loose fashion occur. This track also features a much calmer recitation of the lyrics from Byrne during the verses. After the second chorus, there is a brief horn solo from guest Jon Hassell before the final chorus out. Following this track is “Seen and Not Seen.” This track features Byrne reciting spoken word over a studio jam from the rest of the band. He discusses the idea of changing oneself to fit society’s expectations, and the normality of this concept. It’s quite the timeless theme, but we should expect no less from Talking Heads by this point. The next track, “Listening Wind,” describes a man, Mojique, bombing American colonialists. Finally, we reach “The Overload,” a piece inspired by descriptions of fellow new wave band Joy Division. All the energy of the previous tracks is gone in a somewhat deflating end to an otherwise upbeat album. Thank you for reading, and I hope to see you again for part two. Talking Heads: David Byrne: vocals, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, percussion Jerry Harrison: guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals Tina Weymouth: bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals Chris Frantz: drums, keyboards, percussion, vocals Recommended Recordings: Tom Tom Club-Tom Tom Club Santana-Santana My Life in the Bush of Ghosts-David Byrne and Brian Eno]]>