The Michigan Daily-Saturday, September 8 1979-Page 7
Alfred Hitchcock's 1936
Novelist, lately turned spy, completes assignment to kill enemy agent, or
would have, except the trouble with secret agent Richard Ashendon is
that he had the wrong man under suspicion. Predictably sticky encounters
with enemy holed up in a Swiss Chocolate factory. With PETER LORRE,
MADELEINE CARROLL, JOHN GIELGUD, ROBERT YOUNG and MICHAEL
Short: THE SOO LOCKS (William Blanchard, 1979)-Time-lapsed poem on
Sun: THE THIN MAN (William Powell & Myrna Loy)
Mon: THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR
By OWEN GLEIBERMAN
David Byrne has to be the most.
unglamorous anti-hero in rock and roll.
Onstage, his body jerking him around
like a wind-up toy, the man is too up-
tight to dance, to the beat of his own
music. He sings like someone had him
on the end of a dog leash.
Fear of Music
Sire SRK 6076
And yet, anti-hero he is. The key to
his unorthodox charisma, similar to
Bryan Ferry's, is conviction. Byrne is
so thoroughly Iyrne that you believe
everything he's saying. His band,
Talking Heads, conjures up a mad-
deningly cerebral ghetto. Emotion has
been beaten into submission, not by the
Corporate Superstructure, but by the
sheer, overwhelming profusion of
things. Byrne neatly dichotomizes the
result: You can blandly take the sub-
way home to your buildings and food, or
slip out, psycho-killer style, after dark.
(The truly jaded do both.),
It all sounds a bit thin on paper, but
Talking Heads' first two albums
brought it to resilient life. After
listening to their new album, I only wish
I could believe they've sold out. The
truth is much duller : They're just lazy !
A lot lazier, most likely, than you or me,
and lazier than the complacent con-
sumers who populate their songs. At
least those faceless characters work for
a living; Byrone, on the other hand,
sounds like he spent the last year sitting
around and replaying his albums.
FEAR OF MUSIC, the new record's
title, is hilarious, but only because it
borders on self-parody. The album
feeds on Byrne's image as a repressed
nerd-cum-psycho, as well as his don't-
touch-me-I-won't-touch-you' vision of
life. But Byrne's turned his back on.all
the craziness that formed those feelings
in the first place. He's so obsessed with
his warped, victimized little self that he
can't get outside it.
Fear of Music has all the minor
charms of a Talking Heads album, but
none of the soul. That's a shame,
because at their best, this band is more
passionate than their self-consciously
quirky stance suggests.
Every detail of Talking Heads' sound
confirms Byrne's mathematical
nightmare. The guitar work is
dispassionately metallic: plinks,
planks and plunks, but nary a moment
of soaring freedom. Thearhythm is as
much nervous jitter as big beat.
Message-wise, Byrne's world ends with
In "Don't Worry About the Gover-
nment," he's got everything he wants,
and it has all the vitality and meaning
of a wisp of cloud: "My building has
every convenience, /It's going to make
life easy for me,/It's going to be easy to
get things done,/I will relax along with
my loved ones."
THERE'S SOME reason to be put off
by Byrne's cool pessimism. But the
twisted, insanely kinetic drive of
Talking Heads' music belies the com-
placency of the lyrics. The songsseem
blandly accepting, but the sheer ner-
vous energy of the performance is Byr-
ne's neurotic protest. What makes the
Heads speak is the perennial gulf bet-
ween what Byrne wants to say and the
rather pathetic yips and yowls that get
Producer Brian Eno expanded that
tension on the Brilliant More Songs
About Buildings and Food, by lending
the sound a dense, rhythmic resonance.
On parts of that record, you can hear
Byrne rebelling against everything he's
singing about. When he shouts "Watch
me work!" in "The Good Thing,"
guitars and castinets clattering crazily,
behind him, you can bet he'll 9-to-5 him-
self into an early grave.
Fear of Music is sleek on the surface,
but sterile as an autoclave. Eno is the
producer once again, and the record
has the "Talking Heads sound," but you
wonder why Byrne even bothers to pick
up his guitar. There's little life to any of
it. The lyrics are at one with those of the
other albums: It's clear from "Life
During Wartime" that things haven't
changed. There's "no time" for kissing
and cuddling, or even (God forbid!)tie
Mudd Club and CBGB's.
THERE'S A party in "Memories
Can't Wait," but - alas - it's all in the
mind. Byrne even takes you to Heaven,
but it's another downer, "a place where
nothing ever happens." The same sen-
timents echo through every cut:
Emotional vacuity,rcontrol issued stric-
tly from Up There, a world that ain't no
fun, that ain't nothing at all.
The music, while not shallow enough
to embalm the record, rarely brings
these one-dimensional messages to life.
Eno trots out his barrage of
technological tricks, and the heavily
synthesized "Drugs" is the most im-
pressive track here. There's little in-
vention in the songs themselves. The
only reason "I Zimbr" and "Life
During Wartime" sound vaguely disco-
ish is that the band never bothers to
chop up the droning ostinatos with
tricky, intricate instrumental breaks.
Unlike some disco, though, the effect
isn't mesmerizing - just lethargic.
All of which leaves us with a few cat-
chy numbers and some random
moments of banal hilarity. In "Cities,"
a trash-tour of the globe with a spunky,
riveting rhythm, Byrne hits London,
Birmingham and finally, Memphis,
"home of Elvis and the ancient
Greeks." "Mind," with it's catchy
falsetto chorus, is about as whimsical.
But when Byrne shows all his cards, on
"Electric Guitar," there's no other
feeling to balance his dime-store
fatalism. "Someone controls electric
guitar," he announces. I suppose thai
needs no explanation, but the music's
passable only at 45rpm.
Stacked up next to this, the ominous
backbeat of "Psycho Killer" is out of
another, far more menacing world
Without that dark, crazed undertone
Byrne's neurotic impulses seen
laughingly inconsequential. His
minimalism backfires, turns against it
self, and ends up sounding rather silly
But then, I don't even believe Byrne is
really scared of music.
FOr the moment, I think he's just
bored with it.
CINEMA GUILD TONIHT AT
# MURMUR OF THE HEART 7
(Louis Malle, 1972)
As with most of Malle's films, the edge of corruption is
ever-present. Set in France in 1954 in the home of an upper
class family, the film deals with the rites of passage of a
secluded adolescent boy. Often hilariously funny, it re-
mains a sensitive portrait of growing up with Mom and
Charlie Parker. French with subtitles. (118 min.)
Angell Hall $1.50 7:OO& 9:10
Tomorrow: Hitchcock's TOPAZ & MURDER
Looking for the bitellectul side of life?
Revd the Michigan Daily
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