Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Burning Down the House" (1983)

36. Talking Heads, "Burning Down the House" (Sept. 3, 1983, #9)

Purely a personal favorite and hardly my favorite Talking Heads song at that, I'm getting behind this strictly because it made me almost as happy to see this band win a top 10 hit as it did the day in about 1978 when I accidentally tuned in "American Bandstand" and found them featured. From 1977 until 1986 this was probably my favorite band, for better or worse (I know I'm telling stories on myself here), and every time they took a step that worried me—joining forces with Brian Eno, expanding to a band more than twice the size of the original, releasing a double-live—they redeemed themselves and then some. This originates on their 1983 album Speaking in Tongues, at which time fans were worried because it had been a few years since the band had released anything with all-new material, the longest gap yet in its career, and the problems among the members were starting to leak out and affect things. Happily, the album turned out to be a good one—workmanlike, maybe stinking a little of professionalism, but neatly consolidating their many previous gains. If it didn't offer many surprises or challenges it did provide a good deal of pleasure. This song represents its strong points as well as any (save, perhaps, the lovely "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)"). They bring the funk, which has always marked their best work, even that arch first album. And Byrne's crazy mixed-up strategies for the words and vocals continues apace. Wikipedia informs me that he worked on these lyrics basically at the level of the syllables, piecing it together in fragments, and it shows, but not in a way that isn't charming.

No comments:

Post a Comment