David Byrne Ian Birch - Essay

Ian Birch

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

I can hardly believe ["More Songs about Buildings and Food" is] THIS good. On a law of averages, we've almost exceeded our current quota of 24-carat albums.

Dylan has returned to Olympian form, the Stones and Springsteen have shown they are alive and creatively kicking, while Magazine has lived up to all those Great Expectations. Now we have the second Talking Heads album and it's superb….

It touches all the vital parts at one and the same time. The songs are intelligent and provocative without being condescending or too obtruse. That must satisfy the head. If the words at first seem indecipherable, just persevere. You'll be rewarded.

David Byrne … has the ability to conjure up unsettling perspectives. They are like a series of short stories which startle through their use of shorn words in bizarre combinations. As he economises so efficiency and mystery multiplies. I know this may sound horribly pretentious but before you howl, LISTEN….

"The Good Thing" is constructed along near-perfect lines and sports a lyric about the search for a sort of ideal state of mind which is nowhere near as daunting as it might first appear.

Another fascinating piece of scaffolding is "I'm Not In Love" which alternates space with thunderous attack to wonderful effect.

My current fave rave, though, has to be "The Big Country." Over a rolling gait and translucent guitar, Byrne comes up with an aerial view of the complacent American Way. The duplex in Marlboro country. His persona is the sadly disillusioned traveller who sees it all but finally decides he wants no part of it.

It really IS this good.

Ian Birch, "Heads, Eno Wins …," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), July 15, 1978, p. 23.