Friday, August 4, 2017

Remain in Light

Reviewing an album like London Calling as a definitive 80s work is like reminding folks that the best thing to wear with shoes are socks; you know, in case they forget. Reiterating what's been said before isn't the AM mantra. Indeed, it's often that a seminal work gets hammered in the rubric (London Calling is not an AM10 for instance, despite its iconicism). More often, the AM intent is to spark interest in the forgotten or underrated (Okay, nothing underrated about Disintegration, but it's Disintegration after all, a 10 among 10s). And so, we tip our hats to the grossly overlooked:

It’s nearly as if every critically tempered 80s review is seen through a glass darkly, that gothic underpinning of bleak pessimism, that notion that cutters do it just to feel something, is pervasive. We all like a good funk, those times when we play only the sad Beach Boys’ songs or the Cure or This Mortal Coil. That’s a part of my 80s too, but not all of it. Nothing dark or ethereal about The Jam; nothing cryptic about Thompson Twins or Thomas Dolby. Not all great music is dark, and we are reminded of this with Remain in Light (AM9). Though not every song reeks of optimism, the upbeat tempos and overall artsy cool make it seem that way. Read the lyrics, and you get a message, even a moody one; still you’re left wanting to dance like Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown (you know, that one kid – I think it’s Shermy).

It's small wonder this album shines so brilliantly, with mastermind Brian Eno at his creative peak, his involvement complimenting Byrne's vision inexplicably. In fact, I could venture to call this Eno's strongest collaboration ever, and that is saying a lot (Roxy, Fripp, Bowie). From beginning to end, Remain in Light is consistently interesting, and always motivating. There is no other Talking Heads album that succeeds at this level.  Everybody loves "Once In a Lifetime" for obvious reasons, but "Listening Wind" is the underrated song and star on this album. It is really just that good.

At the height of punk and the infancy of hip-hop, white and black music had never been more disparate. David Bryne had an eye on rectifying that, and least white people liked it. The funky rhythm section compliments Bryne playing with words and sounds that are both unbelievably cool and bizarre.  Yet despite the fun, above all, it's Byrne's tackling questions about our identity in a booming society ("Seen and Not Seen") or sympathizing with people that aren't a part of it (once again, "Listening Wind") that makes Remain in Light all the more poignant.  It's like those parties where everyone gets drunk and dances their asses off, and around 3am the guys with beards who like to talk about their emotions go on endlessly about the government and the super ego and everyone else falls asleep on the floor. Remain in Light is one of those albums that you listen to last.