"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Age NOVEMBER 29, 2013 - by Chris Johnston
TALKING HEADS: CITIES
David Byrne's book of last year, How Music Works, is like his songs - dry, dispassionate, urbane, funny and smart. Of Talking Heads' third album, Fear Of Music, which single Cities comes from, he says: "We made sure no song sounded exactly like the other... I didn't dance on stage, I twitched a bit, mainly from the waist down." He's much better known for other songs of course, and for wild collaborations and presentations, a kind of hipster professorial fellow making the impossible work in (usually) a pop structure.
Cities is one of his great unheralded propositions: in it he assumes his natural position as an outsider on the inside and as someone who wonders, well, where is my beautiful house? My beautiful wife? Where does that highway go to? He namechecks various metropoli: London, Birmingham, El Paso and Memphis. Brian Eno was Talking Heads' new best friend by now so sonically (it was 1979 during new wave and post-punk and all that) the song is, as Byrne says in the book, "wiggly". He travels through it trying to "find a city, find myself a city to live in".
Tina Weymouth's bass playing is drawn, as ever, from disco and Jamaica, giving even the most agitated early Talking Heads a ferocious white-funk underbelly, imploring even mutants to dance in spite of the awkward, nonsensical rhythms. It's the displacement he documents that thrills most, however, and the apparent banality of his observations hit early peaks here with "...look over there! A dry ice factory. Good place to get some thinking done." Genius is an overused word.