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November 01, 1980 - Image 8

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-11-01

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Page 8 Saturday, November 1, 1980 The Michigan Daily

Talking Hea

By MARK DIGITON
For those of you who don't know
already, Talking Heads have found
their groove. Both on their new album,
Remain in Light, and in their ap-
pearance at Masonic Auditorium,
Talking Heads proved their facility in
mixing an idiosyncratic vision of
African rhythms, modern funk, and
post-glitter technology into a sound that
is a surprisingly logical extension from
their past work. In some ways they
seem like a completely different band,
It's
at
1140 South University
668-8411

yet they haven't really changed at all.
The began the concert relatively un-
pretentiously with "Psycho Killer"
augmented by additional guitarist
Adrian Belew. In retrospect, the early
appearance of this song in their set
seems to have been an obligatory
recognition of how they used to sound.
The immense changes they have been
through as a group were already ap-
parent, though-Tina Weymouth's bass
line had an extra funk catch to it and
David Byrne's guitar work had an
unusually scratchy rhythmic edge to it.
It took a while for Belew's super-
technical style-with all its special ef-
fects, feedback, and neck-bending-to
fit into the, context of Talking Heads,
but soon his mercurial solos began to
seem like the perfect counterparts to
the jittery rhythm work and solos of
David Byrne.
ONE BY ONE, new members joined
the band on each song-first a per-
cussionist, then a female backup
singer, then Bernie Worrell on
keyboards and Busta "Cherry" Jones
on bass. Finally, all nine players were

s: Play
on stage and their new sound began to
coalesce. They first hit stride with an
extended version of "I Zimbra" and
their psycho-funk version of "Drugs."
At the start, there were a few rough
edges; the female vocalist was a little
forced in some spots and Belew's guitar
was getting undue attention. Things
still seemed tentative, uncertain.
But with "Crosseyed and Painless"
the band hit a magic groove that ren-
dered them unstoppable. Before long,
the dancers had beat out the security
guards for possession of the aisles, and
Masonic was transformed from a staid
auditorium into a giant dance palace.
Only then was it clear what an
awesome force this group has become.
They deserve a new adjective beyond
"tight." Somehow their unity extended
beyond the simple ability to keep a
common tempo. The den'sity of sound
prevented its division into individual
identities. They seemed to build
momentum, hit crescendoes, and trade
licks as one unbelievable unity. The
most amazing moment came in their
encore of "Take Me to the River," in
which they tangibly hesitated at the end
of each verse to infuse just that much
more tense energy into the chorus that
followed.
Their cohesion was evident on their
faces. In place of David Byrne's ner-
vous self-concentration reinforced by
the fixed attention of other band mem-
bers on him, all nine band members
trade easy affection in the present in-
carnation of the band. Their new funky
format allows each player the freedom
to concentrate on their own con-
tribution to the sound. Relieved of his
focal position, Byrne also seems to have
stretched out and relaxed in his playing
and presentation. At various times he
took up his old stiff, stretching-stork
posture, but soon every joint in his body
would give way to a wobbly bobbing or
a modified King Tut dance step.
Whereas his guitar solos also used to

seem somewhat self-conscious and ten-
tative, Belew's presence seems to give
him the freedom to relax with his
playing and follow it wherever it may
lead.
Other members of the band seem to
have grown just as much from their
association with their touring partners.
Tina Weymouth evidenced an ever
greater knowledge of funk bass lines
than on the last tour. The fact that she
often acted as a rhythm bassist to Busta
Jones' "lead" bass in no way signifies
that her playing was any less important
to the band. Jerry Harrison's keyboard
work has also improved in that just
playing next to Bernie Worrell (for-
merly of Parliament/Funkadelic)
seems to have totally revamped his
style. It's funny that he seems to be
playing pretty much what he used to
play, but now there's an extr -funky
syncopation to it.
THE NEW expanded lineup of
Talking Heads is only one indication of
their consistent refusal to take anything
for granted. To an even greater degree
than on past tours, they have
significantly rethought each song
within their new format. For example,
"Take Me to the River" became the
gospel rave-up it was always meant to
be. Other songs like "Drugs" and "I
Zimbra" made it clear how essential
this stage of, the development was for
Talking Heads; every other version of
these songs paled in comparison to its
incarnation in concert. But the Heads
took this revitalization of their material
one step further than they were
required; many of their new songs were
also substantially altered for perfor-
mance-a new half-speed intro to
"Crosseyed and Painless," a new vocal
arrangement to "The Great Curve,"
and a reworked "Born Under Pun-
ches."
In almost all instances Thursday
night, Talking Heads pushed them-
selves one step more than they had

that funky music.

WF

A NEW MINICOURSE
CULTURAL BORDER CROSSINGS:
Russian Literature and the West 1953-1980
Division 495, Course 312 November 6 through 25
Tuesday & Thursday, Auditorium "B" Angell Hall
Thirteen hours of lectures and discussion, 1 credit
The course is offered on a credit/no-credit basis. No prerequisites. All
lectures, discussions, and readings in ENGLISH. One 5-page paper.
Lecturer: Vasily Aksenov, one of the foremost Russian prose writers and
dramatists of the post-Stalin period.
Other participants: Deming Brown, Carl Proffer, Alexei Tsvetkov, and.
Igor Yefimov.
A survey of the most important developments in Russian cuture, especially Russian literature, since
the death of Stalin. The main theme of Aksenov's lecture's will be the araduol openinq up of Soviet
society from t953 to the present-the ways in which Russians re-discovered their own cultural history,
discovered the West's cultural accomplishments, and began to create a new and vital literature
themselves.
The course will end with a symposium devoted to a variety of contemporary cultural developments
in the USSR and in the new Russian emigration-as well as predictions for the immediate future.
TO REGISTER: All LS&A students go to room 1221 Angell Hall (get
over-ride at Slavic Department 3040 MLB)
Graduate students get Add forms in your
own departments and go to Lorch Hall.
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Daily Photo by MAUREEN O'MALLEY
And you wondered why they were called Talking Heads? Lead
singer/guitarist/songwriter and head Head David Byrne relaxes backstage
at Masonic after wowing a near-capacity crowd Thursday night with the
band's new, fortified-with-the-funk lineup.

to ... and they never faltered. But the
fact that they have reached a logical
culminating point in their career in no
way indicated that they have reached
their highest potential. One of the
astounding qualities that Talking
Heads possess is their absolute refusal
to take the easiest path. We can rest
assured that their ability to see music

as a growing process and not just an
end product will lead to lots of good
albums and great concerts in the
future. Maybe it shouldn't surprise me
so much that Talking Heads are not
only one of the most interesting, but
also one of the most popular bands in
America.

ON THE WRONG TRACK?:
TheR oches play for laughs

101

By DENNIS HARVEY .
I can handle the decline of Devo, the
B-52's and all the other amusing one-
note concepts into jokey repetition as
harmlessly predictable as the yuks on a
sit-com. But it's harder to watch the
Roches turn themselves into a
joke-not just because the joke is so
limited, but because they are (or were)
so much more than just a concept.
Thursday night's concert at the
Power Center caught the Roches in the
act of confining themselves to a Brand
X image-that of thrift shop-attired
loons, cracked sorority sisters hanging
dazed and bemused somewhere bet-
ween camp and sheer obliviousness.
The act is enormous fun, but what it
lacks nags at me endlessly-surroun-
ded by so many less talented and
likeable performers who take them-
selves with deadly seriousness, why do
the Roches have to play it safe and not
take themselves seriously at all?
MAGGIE AND Terre and Suzzy's
music is bent folk, schoolgirlish in its

silly, disarming fun ("We're going
away to Ireland soon/ I hope they have
health food in Dublin/and Strawberry-
apricot pie/if they don't have those
things in Dublin/we'll probably die")
and its sexual evasiveness ("She at the
window/and the Prince upon the
bed/they were for an hour before he
said/If she had no place else/she was
welcome to stay/but she'd better get
back/and she thanked him the
same/leaving him pretty and high and
dry").
They're less common-sensible than
the McGarrigles, less gleefully satirical
than Loudon Wainwright III, existing in
some whimsically touching netherland
in between. As writers, their viewpoint
varies-Suzzy is a straightforward, as-
yet-unsubtle clown, Terre more subtly
playful, and Maggie provides the unex-
pected soft center. It all adds up to a
kind of quirky, affecting reticence, a
shy poking at and skittering away from
the feelings of romantic frustration un-
der the facade. The pulling back from
emqtional directness-just enough-in
songs like "Pretty and High" -and
"Hammond Song" is engaging and, in a
peculiar way, completely honest. They
can hint around and back off and be
frivolous because it's a natural defen-
se-the closer you get to the truth, the
more pain is apparent, and the harder it
is to face head-on.
The Power Center concert rarely
touched on what's really likeable about
the Roches, though it provided an
exhaustive look at what's superficially
entertaining about them. Gargling on
stage, constantly posturing, indulging
in amusingly spacey audience raps
between songs, the sisters were
amiable, but pondering on the
precious-the only thing keep them
from being cutesey was the fact that
they are cute. Clad in shopping-bag-
lady clothes (with a difference: they

Daily Photo by JOHN HAGEN
Terry, Suzzy and Maggie Roche appeared in full Salvation Army regalia
Wednesday night at the Power Center, offering their small but enthusiastic
audience such folky bizarroes as "The Irish Were Egyptians -Long Ago" and
a memorably offbeat three-part harmonic version of the "Hallelujah
Chorus."

were clean), they posed their way
through 13 songs, then gamely came
back for a couple of encores.
THE DIFFERENCES between the
sisters that have seemed muted on
record become distinct in person. Suz-
zy's slim composing abilities and harsh
voice have to a modest extent stranded
her as "the other one"-the klutz with
the laugh lines-on the two albums to
date, but in concert she aggressively
grabs the limelight. She is funny, but
her campy gesticulations can get to be
a pain, horning in on the sweeping
urgency of "Hammond Song" or vam-
ping the audience during a sister's solo
spot. Terre (the mystery is
solved-she's the one with the short
hair) also indulges in genial nonsense
and comically blunt intonations, but
when she calms down, the effect is
stunning-her lithe soprano turned
unexpectedly breathy and incandescent
on "West Virginia," a simple ballad
that seemed a bit too dramatic on
Maggie and Terre's fine, deleted 1975
LP Seductive Reasoning,, but which
provided an entrancing interlude of
calm in concert.
But the real enigma of the group is
Maggie, who scarcely said a word

terest, but sandwiched between the
strenuous camp of her sisters, her
washed-put immobility became
sublimely funny.
REDUCED BY themselves to
something of a comedy act, the Roches
generally fared best with their silliest
material. Loudon Wainwright III's
"Golfing Blues" fit this scheme ideally,
with its typical Wainwright humor-of-
banality lyrics and hiccuped har-
monies. The sisters have the blithe
style to carry off Cole Porter's -in-
souciant "It's Bad for Me," even if the
audience response inappropriately
stamped the piece as a total gag.
They achieve a kind of divine inap-
propriateness on the concert standard
"Hallelujah Chorus," snapping fingers
to the beat of "Praise to the Lord," but
the jokiness was less inspired on the
new album's "Nurds" and "The Death
of Suzzy Roche." The latter, a parable
about the dangers of celebrity (Suzzy is
done in by a jealous laundromat
worker) is one of those great-on-first-
listening jokes, with a lame punchline,
that exhausts itself too readily a couple
of playings later. "Nurds," shorn of its
wildly derivative but impressive wall of
sound on record, has to stand on its Lisa
Lupner yukkery alone-and it collap-

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