David Byrne Jon Pareles - Essay

Jon Pareles

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[On More Songs About Buildings and Food, David Byrne gazes] wide-eyed at the universe, absorbing and accepting. Byrne is determinedly childlike; he picks up pieces but either refuses to assemble them or applies his own para-rational analyses. In "The Good Thing," he hints at some weird combination of messianism and futurism….

Distance—the distance of a bewildered child—seems to have become the major fact of the Heads' world. On their first album, they were "happy," "carefree," optimistic; now, they're only separate…. Byrne doesn't seem upset by it, though; at least, he's no more upset than he is in general. It's just one more thing he finely observes. "The Girls Want to Be with the Girls" could almost be a [Jean] Piaget cognitive-development treatise: The first verse is all one-syllable words, the second allows two-syllable words ("common sense"), the third goes into "intuitive leap." The tinker-toy music on the verses reinforces the pediatric feeling….

Talking Heads have gotten odder than ever with More Songs About Buildings and Food, which is just fine with me. "Warning Sign" is completely wacked out…. David Byrne sums it up in "Artists Only" when he sings, "I don't have to prove that I am creative," as crazily as he can. True to form, he sings it twice.

Jon Pareles, "I Am a Child," in Crawdaddy (copyright © 1978 by Crawdaddy Publishing Co., Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), September, 1978, p. 75 [the excerpt from David Byrne's lyrics used here was taken from "Artists Only" (© 1978 Bleu Disque Music Co., Inc. & Index Music, Inc.; all rights reserved; used by permission of Warner Bros. Music)].