Sunday, September 9, 2007

Talking Heads vs. Ice-T

In 1992, Ice-T changed music history with the release of "Cop Killer" by his short lived heavy metal band, Body Count. Sire Records, Body Count's label at the time, eventually dropped the band, even after the track had been removed from the album by Ice-T himself. The song sparked a nationwide discussion about music and censorship while the bands record label received death threats. Fun stuff. But none of this would have been possible without the help of New York art rockers, Talking Heads.

What I always loved about the Talking Heads is that, at their heart, they were one of the world's few, real life punk bands. Even better still, you would never know that just from listening to them. This is the genius of Talking Heads singer and songwriter David Byrne, he understood that punk could be more than just an aesthetic choice. While most other punk bands in the late 70s and 80s certainly sounded different then what was playing on the mainstream radio, they were also sounding exactly the same as one another. The Talking Heads, on the other hand, were entrenched in the same scene, but developing a sound that was completely different. They are now regarded by most as the founders of "New Wave".

(Talking Heads, looking hella punk)

The Talking Heads formed in 74, but didn't really get going until a few years later when they started playing at legendary punk club CBGBs, just before releasing there first album, titled "77" in, you guessed it, 1977. CBGBs may have stood for "Country, Blue Grass, and Blues" but there was no doubt that by the time the Heads started playing there it was a punk club, home to bands like The Ramones and The Misfits. The band was quickly signed to Sire, which was a legendary punk label at the time.

The next year Talking Heads released "More Songs About Buildings And Food," which contained their oft quoted track, Psycho Killer. More than two decades later, the song would inspire Ice-T to write Cop Killer, causing him to part ways with, ironically, the same label that Psycho Killer was released on.

Years pass. While the punk scene was saying "fuck you" to everyone else, the Talking Heads said "fuck you" to the punk scene. With each following album the lyrics became weirder and more experimental, and the music became everything but rock and roll, falling more often then not into world music. The track that I am going to be posting today is off of their last album, "Naked". By this time the world music aspects of the band have taken a front row seat, which I think causes some of the fans of Talking Heads earlier work overlook this record. Lyrically, (Nothing But) Flowers is just as heady as anything David Byrne has written, detailing some sort of end to technology that has everyone pineing for the good ol' days of Pizza Huts and 7-11s.

(Nothing But) Flowers by Talking Heads

Buy Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads (Sweet boxed set)

Even though the Heads have since broken up (save for a one show reunion in 2002 at the Rock and Roll hall of fame), David Byrne is still pumping out killer, melt-your-face-'cuz-I-shred-so-hard-on-these-bongos world music albums, which I will probably be posting tracks from later. More than anything, the most impressive thing about the Talking Heads and later about David Byrne is how consistently good their songs are, whatever stage of their careers.

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