There was a growing amount of friction among Talking Heads, tied to disputes over publishing credit and income. Plus, all four members were having solo success, which opened other doors that looked appealing. The band’s eighth studio album, Naked, was their last before an acrimonious breakup. The music is a kind of return to their 1980 LP Remain in Light—crosscut rhythms, lots of percussion, dense arrangements—and they recorded some of it in Paris, the home of many great musicians from French-speaking African countries. But in addition to the funk and African influences of Remain in Light, there’s a strong Latin feel on Naked, especially in free-flowing horn arrangements written by trumpet player Angel Fernandez, a mainstay in the great salsa bands of Ray Barretto. The list of musicians who played on Naked is nearly as long as the credits on a Michael Bay movie. It includes artists from America, Africa, England, and the Caribbean, and some of the more notable names include singer Kirsty MacColl, Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, accordionist James Fearnley from The Pogues, Senegalese percussionist Abdou Mboup, and American avant-garde cellist Arthur Russell. The album has a whirlwind of ideas. To anchor this new concoction, Chris Frantz played the drums with lighter sticks or brushes, and studied Trinidadian rhythms. And singer David Byrne shifts from singing about the beauty or mystery of mundane things and begins to contemplate larger topics, including capitalism, politics, and death. He takes a more sedate and refined approach to singing, which doesn’t always cut through the music. Byrne returns to the theme of terrorism in “Blind,” which contrasts a kinetic five-piece horn section with African percussion and fleetly picked guitar by the Cameroonian soukous ace Yves N’Djock. On “Ruby Dear,” Byrne, Jerry Harrison, and Marr weave together some slippery guitar lines over heavy percussion and Tina Weymouth’s sturdy bass. The imagery hints again at trouble brewing: “Down the street where the bonfires glow/Looking like they lost control.” “(Nothing But) Flowers” features great 12-string guitar by Marr and tells the story of a man who lives in a futuristic world with no cars, malls, or any relics of industrial society. It sounds idyllic, but he doesn’t think so: “If this is paradise/I wish I had a lawn mower,” Byrne sings, contemptuous of the greenery. He pines for a return to processed foods and convenience stores. “The Democratic Circus” likens political elections to the big top, but doesn’t muster much of a groove, and it delineates the change from the album’s jaunty first half and its moody second half, a de-acceleration that also recalls Remain in Light. The last song on their last album strips away the horns and percussion, and returns the band to their stations: Byrne on guitar and vocals, Harrison on keyboards, Frantz on drums, and Weymouth on bass. “The old man is at our door/And he’s knocking, knocking,” Byrne sings uneasily. There was no Talking Heads tour behind Naked; they’d played what turned out to be their last show in 1984. The band left behind a fascinating catalog and a deserved reputation as one of rock’s best live bands. They spread pop art strategies into the cultural mainstream. Their influence has grown and grown, and is evident in the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, and Franz Ferdinand, among many. Talking Heads made it cool to be dorky, which has emboldened generations of dorks to be ever dorkier.

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