More Songs About Buildings and Food (Deluxe Version)

More Songs About Buildings and Food (Deluxe Version)

On their second album, Talking Heads met their ideal musical match: the British producer and Roxy Music alum Brian Eno, who shared an art-school background with singer David Byrne, bassist Tina Weymouth, and drummer Chris Frantz, and had recently worked on David Bowie’s album Low. There’s a denser, more foreboding sound on More Songs About Buildings and Food. (Here’s how the self-mocking title came about: Weymouth asked, “What are we gonna call an album that’s just about buildings and food?” And Frantz responded, “You call it More Songs About Buildings and Food.”) If all Eno had done was to add the thickening studio effects to Frantz’s hypnotic drums on “Warning Sign” and Weymouth’s sliding bass line on “With Our Love,” dayenu, he would’ve earned his keep. Byrne is at his inquisitive best in these songs, which portray him as someone puzzled by power dynamics, whether in relationships or at the office. “I’ve got to get to work now,” he sings in “With Our Love,” while “The Good Thing” goes even deeper into a hard-work ethos, with echoes of philosopher of selfishness Ayn Rand (“Add the will to the strength and it equals conviction”). “Work! Work!” Byrne chants at the end of the song, and by then it’s impossible to tell if he’s giving orders or complaining about them. The ends of the songs throughout, especially on “Found a Job” and “The Big Country,” are magnificent, with scrubbing guitars jumping between Frantz’s spare, purposeful drumming. An intense cover of Al Green’s “Take Me To the River” gave the band its first hit, with a peak of No. 26 on the pop chart. And in “The Big Country,” guitarist and keyboardist Jerry Harrison plays a loping slide-guitar lick while Byrne itemizes the humdrum sites he sees while on a flight over the middle of the country, and concludes with chilly disdain, “I wouldn’t live there if you paid me.” It’s unclear whether he’s mocking or embracing East Coast snobbery, but either way, it’s the pinnacle of Byrne’s misanthropic phase.

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