TALKING HEADS – ” More Songs About Buildings and Food ” Classic Albums

Posted: December 29, 2021 in MUSIC

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Talking Heads’ second album and the first with Brian Eno, who would steer them in bold new directions than the less rigid than the debut. While they were still an album away from the fluid jams that helped define their style, ‘More Songs About Buildings and Food’ was a giant leap from jagged art rock to a less stiff version of it. They were still working out their sound here, but their offbeat, but somehow appropriate, cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” hinted at things to come.

Though many tracks on their second album were live staples dating back to 1975, the songs took on a more groove-oriented sound as Talking Heads progressed and played to their strengths.

Toward the end of the tour, Talking Heads played a small solo show in London. Brian Eno, fresh off making “Low” with David Bowie, caught the gig and invited the band to lunch the next day, which turned into listening to records at his flat. The producer put on Fela Kuti’s Afrodisiac and blew their minds. Afrobeat music (particularly West African polyrhythms) would become the next big influence on the members of Talking Heads, culminating in their magnum opus, 1980’s “Remain in Light”. But while that was still percolating, the group made an immediate connection with Eno. By the following spring, Talking Heads had kicked their original production team of disco pros to the curb and took up recording “More Songs About Buildings and Food” alongside Eno in the Bahamas.

It was Talking Heads’ second LP and first collaboration with producer Brian Eno found the band both expanding their musical vocabulary and bringing their disparate influences into a more cohesive whole. The result was an album that retained the unsettled energy of the NYC punk scene but added some full-bodied funk. This irresistible mix resulted in the band’s first Top 40 hit: a dynamite cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” that matched a deep soul groove with needle-nosed guitars and David Byrne’s keening pleas. Although most of the tunes on ‘More Songs About Buildings and Food’ are not as memorable as the ones on the Heads’ debut, the basslines certainly are. Eno’s supervision plus a year of touring – strengthened the band’s playing (especially when it came to the married rhythm section of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz). In stark contrast to the Heads’ addled R&B was the glistening album-closer “The Big Country,” which found Byrne looking down his nose, and out the window, at “flyover country.” It turned out that his tales of alienation worked not just in angular funk but also in a country music construct – something the band would explore further on up the road (to nowhere).

You can hear Eno’s “studio as instrument” approach in all sorts of sonic details, like the loudspeaker-style vocals and reverb bouncing off the drums in “Warning Sign,” the curious clicks and dubby echoes punctuating “Stay Hungry,” or the faint twinkling between lines in the chorus of their heady cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.” But these increasingly intricate aesthetics never threaten to overthrow the music’s pleasure centre an involuntary compulsion to move your body.

“Artists Only” is built from the kind of instrumental interplay that makes you want to dismantle it just so you can understand the source of its magic and mystery; is it the swirling organ melody, the chiming guitar riff, or the chugging bassline that produces this effect? (Like most things Talking Heads, the magic’s in the combinations.)

On “More Songs About Buildings and Food”, Talking Heads were sorting out how to engage simultaneously with the mind and the soul how to be both art-rock and dance music.

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