Reagan Babies in the Age of Obama, Looking Back…

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Talking Heads: Crosseyed And Painless and Born Under Punches
Taken from the album Remain In Light on Sire (1980)

And: I’m Not In Love
Taken from the album More Songs About Buildings And Food on Sire (1978)

And… Girlfriend Is Better
Taken from the album Speaking In Tongues on Sire (1983)

As a man who was born into the ignominious era of Reaganomics and Alf (among other things), it is easy sometimes to forget that I was also birthed into a exciting transitional period in American music. That as punk and disco were crashing and by most accounts burning; that while much of radio-played pop music bordered on the unlistenable (don’t tell the revivalists–they might get upset); and even as many of the tried and true bastions of musical purity (see soul, see jazz) seemed to be pushing through uncomfortable growing pains… a unique climate was beginning to blossom. One that would allow the ushering in of some genuinely outsider music. The kind of explosive, subversive, bizarre and utterly enjoyable pop that probably would not have flown at all if the pervasive landscape had not been so barren.

I’m not going to embark on a whole hoo-rah New Wave rant here. Partly because, truth be told, I’m not a particularly ardent fan of the New Wave writ large… (Certain exceptions exist obviously; Blondie comes to mind.) I did however grow up listening to the Talking Heads (my dad was a fan and had a “Best Of” or two laying around) and though I largely took them for granted in my youth, I’ve been recently re-inspired by the how-shall-we-say “unique” vision that David Byrne & Co. realized with their music. Let’s put it this way: I just saw Stop Making Sense for my first time and, um, it was incredible.

(If you haven’t seen it, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Witness real creativity. The film is less a concert movie than a profoundly exciting piece of performance art. Byrne and director Jonathan Demme did it so proper they even got Pablo Ferro [Dr. Strangelove, anyone? Look him up.] to do the opening/closing credit font; I swear that’s only damn font I’ve ever seen that makes me want to weep for its beauty…)

But I digress… So I went online and downloaded every Talking Heads album from ’77 right on through and have since been slowly wading through this very impressive body of work, unearthing plenty of gems that were completely new to me and re-embracing a few of the ones that I had forgotten about…

The songs here are ones that stuck out as particularly innovative or amazing or, as in all of their cases, struck me as highly danceable. But again, these are just a small taste of a prolific and incredibly diverse body of work.

“Girlfriend” is the only one of them that I really remembered from childhood and still occasionally drop in DJ sets. The others were all pretty new to me. And boy oh boy. What treats. Listen to Brian Eno getting CRAZY afro-beaty on “Crosseyed”… And how ’bout the BLISTERING dance-punk of “I’m Not In Love”? LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture? Recycled goods.

Art of real character and depth should be discovered and re-discovered. Music this good might just require your own personal journey into the known and the unknown.

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