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Talking Heads: 77

by Talking Heads

Released September 16, 1977 via Sire Records

Reviewed September 15, 2022

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Psycho Killer (73%), Don’t Worry About the Government (46%), The Book I Read (46%)

New York, 1977. CBGB is the spot to be. Punk rock is the hot topic, post-punk is the burgeoning scene, and hardcore punk is just on the horizon. Tied in closely with post-punk, and often sharing the same spaces as post-punk bands—such as CBGB—acts like Talking Heads and Blondie would take a different approach as progenitors of the ‘New Wave.’ It is a sound that Talking Heads had yet to perfect on their debut, but Talking Heads: ’77 is nonetheless phenomenal in all of its raw, artsy punk glory. It has the scratchy guitars you’d expect of a 1977 “post-punk” record, but as progenitors of New Wave, it is the infusion of funk, Caribbean rhythms, and an air of pop that propels its reach far beyond ’77. And as David Byrne and the rest of the band—Chris Frantz (drums), Tina Weymouth (bass), and Jerry Harrison (keyboards/guitar)—establish their footing within music history, Byrne’s songwriting sees him similarly navigating a confusing world of his own. As the dorky and idiosyncratic but extremely charismatic showman he is, Byrne’s delivery is captivating as he navigates his own anxiety in both the most mundane and absurd situations. – Dominick (8.8/10)

On the verge of leading the New Wave’s forefront, Talking Heads’ debut writhes and jigs in waning punk by refreshingly integrating art rock and funk. Angular—but never abrasive—guitar licks form the tracklist’s core, with some songs’ key rhythms being accompanied by an additional unique timbre. Behind the rattling chorus of the opener, there’s an accordion, followed by some steel pans; on “Tentative Decisions” the drums assume a marching band character akin to some regal procession, and on “Happy Day” there’s a subtle couple of chords from an organ while some xylophonic chimes skip and dance as if the song were about them. Harrison’s scratches, Tina’s funky bass and Frantz’ percussion perfectly keep up with each other, but it’s Byrne’s diverse vocal repertoire that keeps listeners attentive, especially since not every track has a trademark quinary instrument to spice things up. Single “Psycho Killer” is a great example. Byrne’s “fa”s and “yai”s exude so much infectious charisma that it not only elevates the energy, but transfers it to the listener. You don’t even notice you’re imitating him half the time, & he reminds me of what we’re like when we’re by ourselves. 77 strikes a safe balance between convention and originality. It’s a skeleton for their later releases to grow around, fiddling with the avant-garde and reshaping music as we knew it. “I’m living in the future…” Byrne professes on “The Book I Read”; some days I wonder if he was letting on more than meets the eye. – Cam (8/10)

Peeking out from behind the curtain of obscurity, Talking Heads’ plan of execution took the eccentric, outsider route. Lit up with flare and flambeaux the debut promised an eclectic career in more ways than one. Their intriguing style set the stage for what would become a highly sought after and highly adorned career. Influence is a big thing in the world of artistic endeavors. Some would say it's more important than the work itself. Influence is what survives long after the day is done. When it comes to contemporary music there aren't many acts that haven't fallen into the undercurrent of influence in the wake of Talking Heads. The quirks and characteristics of the band make them a timeless act—often imitated, never bettered. Talking Heads: 77 was just the introduction and warmup of one of the finest bands to ever grace the game. – Peter (8/10)

Jared: 9.5/10 | Dominick: 8.8/10 | Pax: 8.8/10 | Cam: 8/10 | Peter: 8/10 | Hadley: 7.5/10


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