The heart of darkness
Laszlo Matyas | 07/18/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"For their third album, Talking Heads dig deeper into the arty funk and urban paranoia that had simmered on their earlier efforts. David Byrne's quirk, innocence, and anxiety seem to reach a breaking point, entering realms of surreal panic that even "Psycho Killer" couldn't have foreseen. "Heaven" vents an almost suicidal desire for peace and quiet, while "Paper" bubbles with existential panic. The music is grimier and more labyrinthine, with Brian Eno stuffing electronic jitters into the cracks of their funky brain-pop wall of sound.
Which is both the advantage and the downfall of this record. On the one hand, it furthers many of the things that make Byrne and friends so appealing; there's jittery paranoia, fractured pop, and nervous energy to be found in tracks like "Cities," "Air," and "Life During Wartime." Problem is, there's also less wit, charm, poignance, and willful naivete. Nothing wrong with moving on, of course- I wouldn't admire Talking Heads so much if they spent their whole career rewriting "The Big Country" and "Don't Worry About The Government"- but the problem is that they replace their endearing innocence with... well, with nothing. There's a certain hollowness to Fear Of Music that simply doesn't exist on any other Talking Heads record. I find myself completely unmoved by a lot of these tracks. "Animals" has this really annoying Cookie Monster vocal and no musical qualities that are worth mentioning, while "Memories Can't Wait" falls flat on a stiff guitar riff. And speaking of guitars... "Electric Guitar" has a plodding rhythm, a turgid main melody, and an okay-at-best Byrne performance. "I Zimbra" is fun enough, but not much more than that. Sorry, but I can't run with the crowd on this one."