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Fear of Music (Remastered)

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Editors’ Notes

Dark, hypnotic, almost unbearably tense, Fear of Music nonetheless marks the moment when the Talking Heads became a full-on dance band. Recorded at the dawn of the Reagan era, the album’s air of Orwellian menace might seem at odds with the sheer rump-shaking power of its rhythm section. “There’s a party in my mind … and it never stops,” David Byrne sings through the spooky cacophony of “Memories Can’t Wait,” and while that may be true, it’s not necessarily one you’d want to linger at. Produced by Brian Eno and laden with overdubs, effects, and distortion, Fear of Music revolves around the twin poles of Byrne’s high-strung vocals and the increasingly funky groove of Tina Weymouth’s bass. Post-apocalyptic paranoia and existential dread are the dominant emotional modes, with “Life During Wartime” providing survival tips of the scariest sort: “You oughta know not to stand by the window/ Somebody see you up there.” If there was ever a record that summed up the uneasy mood of the time, this was it. Yet the exhilarating opener, “I Zimbra,” is the flip side to this dystopian vision. African polyrhythms, a tribal-sounding Dada chant and Robert Fripp’s guitar weave and pulse around one another for a sound that’s futuristic and primitive at the same time. A brilliant marriage of brain and booty, anxiety and art, Fear of Music wasn’t quite like anything we’d heard before — or since.

Customer Reviews

Between This and Carlos Castaneda ... There Went My Youth

Dear Talking Heads, Thanks for recording this album. Finally, I said to 22-year-old self, I am not alone. Or was I? Sitting in a small bedroom with a cheap stereo, playing and replaying Fear of Music. Knowing I was in the presence of musical, maniacal geniuses. My headphones melting.

hard to endure, it's so good

It's unbearable. it reaches into your soul and exposes all the myths therein. Myths vaguely related to the middle class life you think will never end until it sends you to heaven. The album says, hey I got news for you, you're living the Big Lie. If you don't think we're living a life during wartime, you will after you dance your way through this perfect work of art.

The highest point in a string of very high points

I was an adolescent when this came out and it took my breath away. I loved the first two albums, and I remember the excitement I felt when I saw this in the store (the manhole patterning with green stamp remains my favorite album cover design) but I wasn't prepared for the breadth of this record - the frenetic, rhythmic urgency of the first five songs; the odd and deeply evocative atmospherics of the rest. The songs are often suffused with paranoia, but always leavened with humor. What other band shows such range? 'I Zimbra', 'Heaven' and 'Electric Guitar' would seem to have been recorded by different artists, what they have in common is what made Talking Heads so great - an offbeat but highly developed intelligence and that slight nerdiness that reinforces their integrity. They did great things after this (and maybe 'Cool Water' on 'Naked' is as moving as 'Heaven' is here), but speaking highly subjectively, this is one of three records I hold above all others. n.b. The title refers to a rare medical condition in which, if I remember correctly, the inflicted goes into convulsions upon hearing music.

Biography

Formed: 1974 in New York, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

At the start of their career, Talking Heads were all nervous energy, detached emotion, and subdued minimalism. When they released their last album about 12 years later, the band had recorded everything from art-funk to polyrhythmic worldbeat explorations and simple, melodic guitar pop. Between their first album in 1977 and their last in 1988, Talking Heads became one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the '80s, while managing to earn several pop hits. While some of their music can...
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