100 Greatest Songs of the 80’s #10 Talking Heads – The Great Curve

Released : 1980

Time: an elusive, conceptual measure of existence, or resistance to, reality. To say Remain In Light, the Talking Heads album from which The Great Curve is stripped, was ahead of time, or ahead of it’s time as the popular phrase goes, is almost insulting to it’s legacy. On it the quartet – seemingly on the point of break up after touring 1979’s Fear of Music – created from tension songs which fused punk, new wave, funk, early hip-hop and polyrhythmic contortions in tribute to Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. It is, much like Kraftwerk‘s Man Machine, a vastly cosmopolitan trip of which the listener’s most common response to is usually asking “What year was this made in?”

Working again with long time collaborator Brian Eno, singer David Byrne began to change both his approach to singing and writing lyrics, free associating until they made some kind of sense. This lack of structure, along with Eno’s approach to constantly overlaying sounds, loops and fragments, created an album with supreme weight and density that gave up it’s cerebral pretensions in favour of satisfying our primal, sub conscious instincts. Sometimes it felt huge, enough to fill the universe, sometimes it collapsed in on itself. In either state it was still a revolution in Western-Hemispheric pop music.

The Great Curve was one of those journeys, partially inspired by Byrne’s reading of Professor Robert Farris Thompson’s book African Art in Motion and driven on by joyous percussion and complex, inter-locking and overlapping melodies, paths that effected the motion of many snakes each moving through different grass. On hire Guitarist Adrian Bellew revelled in his task of bringing danger and a fear of it’s unknown, his steepling, distorted synth guitar raking across the song like a knife on a mirror. Sometimes it sounds like crazed Baptists washing you in the water, drowning you in their belief and pushing soil down onto your chest. In this process, any other people’s time had ceased to exist.