Talking Heads, "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)"

>> Friday, September 16, 2011

An appropriately jittery and claustrophobic live take on the first track from the Heads' Remain In Light

I'm trying to remember: was this the first Talking Heads album I ever acquired. I say "acquired" because I think my first copy was a cassette tape bootlegged from a copy of the CD checked out from the public library. But, that being the case, it's possible I already had 77 on vinyl. If that sounds horribly after-the-fact and behind the curve, it was; you have to understand that I was a kid who largely grew up on Classic Rawk and was slow to get on board with the College/Alternative stuff that was current, much less be as acquainted as I ought to have been with the Crazy Ivans some of the best acts of the early '80s had been making to shake off the '70s and the '60s, or even (in the case of acts like Talking Heads and David Bowie) their own ghosts.

It's possible, when I think about it, that I came to Remain In Light in a completely backwards way, that I'd rented the VHS of Stop Making Sense and taped the soundtrack--my parents had the VCR routed through the hi-fi, so the tape deck was getting a really nice, really clean stereo analog signal if you wanted the soundtrack from The Wall (with its alternate versions of several songs, including "Mother", and its un-/limited-release cuts like "What Shall We Do Now?" and "When The Tigers Broke Free") or were a Spalding Gray obsessive who liked listening to Swimming To Cambodia repeatedly.

So this Talking Heads album was my favorite for a while. Mostly in high school, which may have had something to do with being an unhappy person at the time and therefore liking unhappy things. Eventually, the ass-shaking Speaking In Tongues would supersede it because ass-shaking is a happiness and that album will not tolerate a listener sitting still for it, even if you can restrain yourself to a tapping toe (this will merely placate the implacable dance-monster bound by funky sorcery to the record's grooves or its pits or bits if you're more modernly inclined). Remain In Light is (ironically, given the title) just a dark album, possibly darker than its predecessor, because the sampled grooves are just so tightly welded together and Byrne's deliberate, unconscious lyrics (composed via a mix of free-associative techniques and modeling non-lyrical speech) are really kind of frightening to me. ("As we watch him digging his own grave/It is important to know that was where he's at"; "And you may say to yourself, my God, what have I done?"; "All I want is to breathe".) Byrne sounds like a fucking numbers station on Light, his antennae vibrating in sympathy to some dislocated, alienated voice, chanting meaningful gibberish. Well of course I liked that when I was a kid, that sums up exactly how I usually felt when I didn't feel sad or angry (or, thinking back, that's how I sometimes felt at the same time I was feeling sad and angry).

All of which may be why I haven't listened to this record in a while, although it's a great fucking record.


Steve Buchheit Saturday, September 17, 2011 at 9:30:00 AM EDT  

I once wrote a poem about kids jamming to alien radio stations and coming to an age of passing over into adulthood. In my head, those alien songs sounded exactly like the Talking Heads.

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