As somebody who primarily listens to indie rock, the music of 1980 is a little before my traditional purview. There were punk albums at the time. The Clash released Sandanista! in 1980, and the Ramones and Dead Kennedys dropped albums. There was also Chipmunk Punk, which was Alvin and the Chipmunks doing punk covers. I came so close to writing about that. I also came close to writing about Bruce Springsteen’s The River or Joy Division’s Closer. Those were not for ironic reasons. They are just good, interesting albums. However, in the end, the album I landed on was Remain in Light from Talking Heads, a band I enjoy that was an influence on many early indie rock bands.
Maybe this is fruitless for me to do. If you care about Talking Heads at all, you might be, like me, listening to the podcast R U Talkin’ Talking Heads 2 My Talking Head?. Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott are going through Talking Heads’ output like they did with U2 and REM. They also do a bunch of dumb, absurdist nonsense that I find to be funny. I listened to the Remain in Light episode. It was quite good. This is considered an all-time great album by many. Basically every review gives it five stars or an “A” or a 10/10. I don’t dig it nearly that much. If I were letter grading it, I’d give it, say, a B+. Talking Heads was heavily influenced by African musicians on this album, such as Fela Kuti. That’s a style of music and rhythm that isn’t entirely up my alley. Also, there are eight songs on this album and it’s over 40 minutes long. As an indie rock and punk fan, you may not be surprised to find I like songs with a little more punch to them.
On the other hand, “Once in a Lifetime” is on this album. That’s a truly incredible song. It’s a genuine classic. I love it. The rest of the songs could be trash and this album would still probably get a C+. There aren’t really any bad songs on Remain in Light, the fourth album from the band. However, some of them are too indulgent for me. They are too focused on getting in a groove, and I’ve never been a fan of jamming. Of course, if that is your thing, I totally get why you would love Remain in Light. I can appreciate the technical skill. Technical skill just doesn’t scratch that itch in my brain to the same degree.
The reason Talking Heads became an iconic band that grabbed a piece of music history is “Once in a Lifetime.” Well, that and Stop Making Sense, probably the best music documentary ever. It rose above the fray and put the band on the radar for people who weren’t going to CBGB’s or listening to post-punk. Remain in Light helped shaped the future of music when it was released in 1980. That’s how we got here.