Speaking In Tongues
By David Chiu
Talking Heads’s album catalog got a major boost in sonic quality, not to mention packaging, thanks to the recent Rhino reissue program. It is befitting of a band whose longstanding reputation was built on intricate and innovative sounds and striking visuals.
Two of their mid ‘80s albums benefited from the upgrade. Like its predecessor Remain in Light, Speaking in Tongues (1983) is one of their most ambitious albums. At that time, the four piece band—vocalist/guitarist David Byrne, drummer Chris Frantz, bassist Tina Weymouth, and guitarist/keyboardist Jerry Harrison—expanded into a larger ensemble that included Parliament keyboardist Bernie Worrell, singer Nona Hendryx, guitarist Alex Weir, and percussionist Steve Scales. The additional personnel expanded the group’s minimalist sound that became more complex and polyrhythmic. Aside from that, Speaking was one hot funk and dance record epitomized by the opening “Burning Down the House,” “Girlfriend Is Better,” and echoes of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” on “Swamp.” The album’s best track “This is the Place (Naïve Melody)” is also one of the group’s loveliest ballads.
After coming off a popular tour that resulted in the now-classic Stop Making Sense film, the core lineup returned to basics on Little Creatures (1985). Dispensing with the techno and heavy percussion flourishes from Speaking, Little Creatures is the group’s accessible record with several immediately recognizable tunes: the whimsical “And She Was,” the parental commentary “Stay Up Late,” the hard funk of “Television Man,” and the eccentric “Road to Nowhere.” Even if the record didn’t sound as adventurous as the previous ones before it, Little Creatures is a pleasant pop album.
These editions are featured in the Dual Disc format featuring both the CD audio and DVD 5.1 surround versions. Both discs contain bonus tracks (a skeletal version of Road to Nowhere on Creatures) and the group’s classic videos (the hilarious “Burning Down the House”—key moment: the kid climbing on Byrne’s back, and the innovative “And She Was”).