Talking Heads’ first two albums, “Talking Heads 77” and “More Songs About Buildings and Food,” were post-punk marvels filled with upbeat funky melodies and grooves. In those records, frontman David Byrne’s offbeat observations were normally neutralized by his use of humor. In the band’s third album, “Fear of Music,” Byrne continues to be odd, but is less reliant on humor to cover it up.
The album starts off with the African-inspired rhythmic experimentation “I Zimbra,” complete with an adaptation of a poem by Hugo Ball. This style and sound continued to influence the band’s next album, “Remain in Light.” Most other songs on the album borrow more from funk idioms, but those rhythms are mixed into a minor-key gloom, which is especially evident on the track, “Mind.”
Songs on “Fear of Music” are also less fast-paced than previous works. Instead, many songs such as “Air,” “Heaven,” and “Electric Guitar” brood slowly rather than erupt with funk. That said, “Cities” may be the most frantic-sounding song ever recorded by Talking Heads. The same can be said of the first big single off the album, “Life During Wartime,” which is probably one of the few upbeat songs about World War III to exist, the other being “It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” from R.E.M.’s 1987 album “Document (R.E.M. No. 5)”
With its nonsensical lyrics, African-influenced rhythms, and overall grooves, “Fear of Music” is just an absolute fun record to listen and dance to, and perfectly paves the way for the upcoming decade of New Wave.