Talking Heads - Little Creatures Music Album Reviews

Today on Pitchfork, we are taking a critical look at Talking Heads with new reviews of five albums that chart their journey from New York art punks to a voracious and spectacular pop group.

Early in their career, Talking Heads seemed to be a manifestation of frontman David Byrne’s physiology: lean, angular, and severe. Journalists loved to point out his resemblance to Psycho’s clean-cut villain Norman Bates, especially when writing about their enduring first hit “Psycho Killer.” It was far too easy an observation, and one Byrne resented.

Having sprouted at Rhode Island School of Design and relocated to New York in the mid-’70s, Talking Heads were wedged between two worlds: They were artsy outliers of the punk community too clean-cut and high-minded to really blend in at CBGB, yet too odd for listeners accustomed to a steady diet of Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. A few early singles like “Psycho Killer” and “Life During Wartime” snuck onto the charts by the end of the ’70s, buried under glossy hits by ABBA, Bee Gees, and Michael Jackson. Listening to their early catalog now, it’s clear their sense of melody didn’t get enough credit. Byrne didn’t have the easy star appeal of Barry Gibb, but by 1985, when Talking Heads released their sixth studio album Little Creatures, they’d become more melodic, more relatable: They’d made a pop album.
“It’s so much fun to be able to relax and just play without feeling you have to be avant-garde all the time,” bassist Tina Weymouth told The New York Times’ Ken Emerson in June 1985, one month before the album’s release. “We spent so many years trying to be original that we don’t know what original is anymore.” Readers wouldn’t completely understand what she meant until July, when Little Creatures reached No. 20 on the Billboard 200. After a decade in which they’d produced five pivotal LPs, each more unexpected than the last, Talking Heads had laid down their most approachable album ever.

Little Creatures is a triumphant pop document that celebrates life’s simple joys, the exact thing Talking Heads once weaponized. By this point, the band had already run the gamut of creative endeavors. In addition to their hugely influential discography, they’d worked extensively with Brian Eno, recorded an expansive live album (1982’s The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads), and collaborated with director Jonathan Demme on the groundbreaking and now-classic concert film Stop Making Sense. Critics keenly traced the arc of their success from RISD art obsessives to downtown punk affiliates to a 10-piece band of Afrobeat enthusiasts. Talking Heads’ love of funk and Afrobeat is alive and well on this album, evident in Weymouth’s walloping basslines and a smattering of hand drums; they also experiment with country western pedal steel (on “Creatures of Love”), bubbling synths (“Walk It Down”), and drumline snare (“Road to Nowhere”). But Little Creatures was about a lot more than a new batch of instruments in the studio.

In a 1985 review, Rolling Stone insisted that Little Creatures was “the sound of David Byrne falling in love with normalcy.” Normalcy existed throughout Talking Heads’ catalog (what could be more normal than “buildings” and “food”?), but Little Creatures is their first album to examine one of normalcy’s most complicated and significant corners: Procreative sex and parental love. Such milestones in Byrne’s own life—marriage with his then-girlfriend, artist Adelle Lutz, and the birth of their daughter, Malu—were still a few years away. Meanwhile, Talking Heads’ wedded rhythm section, Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz, had a little creature of their own: Their son Robin arrived in 1982. Byrne didn’t immediately rush to write a song about him. “David’s so funny,” Frantz told Rolling Stone’s Christopher Connelly in 1983. “He sort of wants to hold the baby, but he’ll never say, ‘Can I hold the baby?’ We just say, ‘David, would you like to hold the baby?’ And David gets all stiff, like, ‘Am I doing it right?’”

By 1985, Bryne had caught the baby bug. Little Creatures is a celebration of love, procreation, and all the normal things Byrne used to treat with a sense of fear and alienation (this is a man who once sang: “They say compassion is a virtue, but I don’t have the time”). In a brief documentary from 1979, Byrne sits, half in shadow, criticizing other rock’n’rollers for singing about everyday life in “rather mythic terms.” “People get very emotional about these, sort of, very mundane things,” Byrne says. “Grand events very rarely happen.” By the time Talking Heads wrote Little Creatures, grand events were happening every day—every second, even. On the calm and clean “Creature of Love,” Bryne does nothing but marvel at the mundane. “Well, I’ve seen sex and I think it’s alright/It makes those little creatures come to life,” he sings. “Little creatures of love/With two arms and two legs/From a moment of passion/Now they cover the bed.” Looking outside of himself, Byrne found beauty in Frantz and Weymouth’s little family.

Mid-album romp “Stay Up Late” is a far more jarring display of Byrne’s sudden fascination with toddlers. Driven by Jerry Harrison’s punching keyboard and big stadium drums, it’s the goofiest entry in Talking Heads’ catalog to date. Byrne demolishes any remaining scrap of stoicism: “Cute. Cute. Little baby/Little pee pee. Little toes,” he babbles. The song was a hit, parking on the charts for a full 10 weeks thanks to its fun, bouncing form: simple, rubbery bass, a lyrical nod to the Temptations, and a sing-along chorus. Perhaps Byrne’s paternal affections made him a more approachable frontman than the paranoid beanpole of yore. Still, no amount of artistic brilliance can justify the lyrics “little pee pee.”

“Stay Up Late” is the album’s most literal song. Little Creatures functions best when Byrne speaks in relatable abstractions, allowing the band to translate them into expansive and buoyant pop songs. Opener “And She Was” and “The Lady Don’t Mind” are prime examples. They seem driven by Byrne’s unique approach to love, affectionate but not possessive. Amid the prickly guitar riffs, brass accents, and woodblock of “And She Was,” he observes a woman at her “pleasant elevation,” in awe of her ability to just be. On “The Lady Don’t Mind,” he calmly watches her travel from place to place, admiring her autonomy from afar. The verses are slithering and mysterious, flecked with hand percussion and winding guitar licks, perhaps a nod to this woman’s independent nature. But when the chorus bursts open, Byrne is ecstatic: “I like this curious feeling!” he sings. This is the sound of Talking Heads when their leader is hopelessly in love.

In 1985, Little Creatures sounded like nothing Talking Heads had ever done before, and its staggering closer, “Road to Nowhere,” could be called their first proper anthem. It is simply enormous, with a gospel choir lead-in, Frantz’s one-man marching band, and an accordion slinking all over the place. It’s a vast, victorious ballad that builds and builds. Its titular road feels particularly significant: It is a device Byrne had once derided as just another way rock music made banality sound melodramatic. “Every trip down the highway was a huge experience,” he quipped in 1979, explaining his desire to treat such stimuli with realistic proportions. Just a few years later, he took his own trip, a metaphor for our journey through the great unknown.

Little Creatures went on to sell over 2 million copies in the United States, becoming Talking Heads’ most successful studio album. Many critics attributed their aptitude for arena-sized pop songs to Frantz and Weymouth’s disco-tinged side project Tom Tom Club, but in retrospect, the band’s fate was sealed from the beginning. Tangled in the barbs of early albums like Talking Heads 77 and Fear of Music were jagged pop songs made all the more interesting by their lack of sheen and manipulation of convention. On Little Creatures, Talking Heads polished every surface of their sound. It wasn’t so much a step in the right direction as an inevitable conclusion for a band who, like everyone, must embrace adulthood at some point. Little Creatures is not Talking Heads’ best album, but it is their case for aging gracefully, and with great fondness for life.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Talking Heads - Little Creatures Music Album Reviews Talking Heads - Little Creatures Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on April 30, 2020 Rating: 5


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