Friday, February 24, 2012

Songs #133 & 134: It's Friday, but I'm posting like it's TWOsday!

Song #133 of 9999                                                  Song #134 of 9999

Title: Genius of Love                                               Title: Qu'ran
Artist: Tom Tom Club                                               Artist: Brian Eno & David Byrne
Year: 1981                                                               Year: 1981
Album: Tom Tom Club                                             Album: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

Earlier in the week, I profiled the Police, featuring three songs from their groundbreaking Ghost in the Machine LP. The Police are one of those bands that, in my opinion, are so much more than the sum of their parts. All three of them have had solo careers since the dissolution of the band but, despite Sting's immense success, those projects never produced anything as exciting as the music they made together. (Dream of the Blue Turtles comes close.)

Talking Heads, on the other hand, has members who made startlingly creative music alone and with others when not engaged in their primary band. In 1981, David Byrne made his foray into experimental music with producer/musician Brian Eno, while spouses Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz explored the dance scene as Tom Tom Club. (Even Jerry Harrison released a solo record in 1981, but it sounds a little too much like watered-down Talking Heads to feature here. He fared better with 1988's Casual Gods.)

I can't really explain what makes "Genius of Love" good. The synth chirps, funky guitar (thank you, Adrian Belew) and percussion breaks all contribute but, in the end, I think it's really about the layered vocal track with its persistent three-part harmony throughout. Definitely not the lyrics. "Qu'ran" couldn't be more different in mood as it sets a reading of the Qu'ran by Algerian Muslims over a slow funk groove. This is one of the earliest examples of the significant use of sampling on a record; in fact, all of the tracks on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts employ the technique of pairing a sampled vocal track (from a variety of sources) with original music, including some inspired guitar work from Robert Fripp. Incidentally, "Qu'ran" was left off of the 2006 remaster of the record, reminding us how times have changed in the thirty years since its release.

Whether or not you like these tracks, they're worth acknowledging as being very very progressive for the time. I'll bring back the pop tomorrow.

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