Record Review (Fresh Fruit, 1979)
It is a postulate of the Talking Heads’ system of reality that all emotion is merely analysis of straight lines and occasional curves which exist between lead singer-guitarist David Byrne and not only the good thing (love) but also the fear and tension inherent in the band’s peculiar economy. On their third album Fear of Music (which by the Enonian transformation becomes Music for Fear), Byrne takes inventory of his phobias well as a few of the more oblique lines to the good thing.
The sheer intensity of this record, accentuated by the Byrne-Eno tension exerts a pressure (=kT/V) on the static drive of the music. The foreground coloration remains rather limited in tint and motion, while contrast and arabesques range the spectrum in the background. The result of these dynamic/static conflicts is a simmering pressure and frayed edginess that is neither direct (as is the vision of ’77) nor shimmering (as is the vision of More Songs About Buildings and Food). Fear of Music is distilled impressionism, tempered by producer Eno’s minimalist palette.
What makes Fear of Music and the entire Talking Heads oeuvre not only aesthetically pleasing as rock but also fiercely unique is David Byrne’s neurotic, lopsided, arty-intellectual vision and humor, which has yielded (among others) “Artists Only” and “Don’t Worry About the Government” on previous works and, on Fear of Music, “Cities” and “Drugs.” But the fulcrum of Fear lies at a crisis in Byrne’s vision, a disruption and subsequent insecurity (“Air,” “Life During Wartime”). The real edge on the record is directed converse to the fear of crisis; the tension is the tension of conflict; the resolution is Fear of Music.
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First published in the alternative weekly Fresh Fruit (fall 1979)