At some point between lockdowns last year when non-essential shops were allowed to open up for a little while, we wandered into my ‘local’ record shop. I’m pretty sure I was there to collect something.. anyway, my wife picked up Talk Talk’s It’s My Life (by chance the purple ‘Love Record Stores’ version). I’d heard of the song and I’d heard them mentioned a lot especially in relation to kicking off post-rock with their later work but for some reason had never ventured into their work, like a muppet.
Anywho, cut to a few months later and by the end of 2020 there are four of their five albums (the first one doesn’t really do it for me, too synth-pop) on my shelves and I’ve had that wonderful feeling of discovering an artist and absorbing as much of their material as I can. There’s a massive leap between that second album and their later work and even across their last three albums there’s little by way of connective thread in terms of sound.
I won’t go into a breakdown of their albums or a ranking of them – Aphoristic Album Reviews has already done an outstanding job of that and it’s well worth a read.
I had the pleasure of hearing ‘Life’s What You Make It’ on the radio on the way back from the office this lunch and it felt as good a time as any to sit down with a mug of coffee and explore five songs I really dig from Talk Talk.
It’s My Life
Everyone knows ‘It’s My Life’ how “This ain’t a song for the broken-hearted, no silent prayer for faith-departed”… NO not that one. Nor “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want It’s my mind and I’ll think what I want”. It’s My Life was their breakthrough and while still very much a synth-pop album it’s a fairly decent one (I will be *that* person and say it sounds a lot better on physical vs digital but hey ho) and manages to stand out thanks to Hollis’ vocals and the arrival of Tim Friese-Greene as producer / additional member.
Life’s What You Make It
The Colour of Spring is pretty much a solid 45 minutes of perfection. Just listening to it is an utterly immersive and satisfying experience. Not just a bridge between their previous two albums and their later experiment-embracing final albums, it’s a massive giant’s leap on in a way that only a few bands have ever made. So, yeah, I’m going for two from their third. The lead single, ‘Life’s What You Make It’ is just balls-out brilliant – from that bass riff that’s actually a piano riff (I’d love to have seen Hollis’ face when he came up with such a delicious hook) and that dirty guitar… I could eat this song.
I Don’t Believe in You
I love the angry, moody as a teenager finding out there’s no Wi-Fi guitar that punctuates this one and then that gorgeous little lift immediately afterwards at approx 3:38 like a sudden gush of gorgeousness. What I mean is, if it’s not clear, is that if I was asked to choose a favourite Talk Talk song it would be this.
I Believe in You
Actually, maybe I DO believe in you… It’s almost like a different band behind each album they all sound so different. Spirit of Eden is the one I’d heard about for so long before getting it because it’s so often credited with being one of the touch-points in the birth of post-rock though, as others before me have pointed out, closer to jazz in its textures and ambience. To me the album is one that should be enjoyed as one piece – one gorgeous, mediative intricate piece.
After the Flood
I really have a thing for Talk Talk’s last three albums… Hollis’ voice and that piano sound aside – the real unifying element is just how fucking good they are. With the last one – Laughing Stock – I really feel like Hollis just let go, there’s something gorgeously cathartic in just how free-form the music is.
6 thoughts on “Any way you sing it, it’s the same old song – Five from Talk Talk”
Thanks for the shoutout! Those last three Talk Talk albums are all astonishing – one of the best three-album runs by anyone. I’ve been listening to John Martyn recently, and his One World album from 1977 is kind of an antecedent to the late-period Talk Talk sound – emotive vocals, ambient sounds. It also features Steve Winwood.
Always a pleasure.
I’m familiar with John Martyn – there was a lot of revived interest when he passed (which I’ve just realised was a lot longer ago when I thought) and enjoyed Solid Air and One World, some of his 80’s stuff less so.
Steve Winwood (who was discovered by Island’s Chris Blackwell who produced One World) now there’s a man with a hell of a career
His 1980s solo albums aren’t amazing, but he managed to have hits when a lot of other boomer artists were struggling during that era.
Aph and now you are keeping this music in my spin list. Enjoyed the Winwood comments above. The guy is one of my top people.
I’ve only recently been taking a dive (an arced dive of course) into his solo work – ridiculously talented chap with an amazing CV
I have to join you on the solo stuff.