Record Of The Week # 100

Talk Talk – It’s My Life

Released in 1984 this undoubted classic has come my way thanks to a neighbour. Karl had some vinyl LP’s he was happy to divest himself of for ‘folding’ and I checked out what his selection included. Amongst some lapses in taste this gem turned up in. Of course I knew this album, I had it on a long lost cassette. I now had to do with a ‘Best of’ CD. Whilst compilations are great for the hits you miss out on the original album’s feel and what the artists were trying to achieve at the time.

The first thing to note is that this came at a time when synthesiser sounds were substituting for conventional rock n’ roll guitar bands. This album floats along on such a foundation with conventional instruments filling in. Padded shoulder fashions, eccentric hairstyles with cool posturing were all the rage. Enter Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, A Flock Of Seagulls, Visage and Tubeway Army amongst others. Talk Talk were hardly New Romantics and with this album only had minor commercial success as it grazed the charts at No 35. Because of this it probably was seen as more credible for music collectors, like me, with their disdain for the superficiality of chart success.

There is something immediately compelling about the music. Mark Hollis was the voice and a haunting one it is: imposing, sonorous, soaring, melancholy and haunting as he extracts the maximum emotion of out of lyrics often comprising of distracted philosophy – “Such a shame to believe in an escape / A life on every face and that’s a change / Till I’m finally left with an eight.” Err, yes well…

The music drives along with tunes that become earworm hooks; many of them danceable. In this three-piece band Hollis wrote or co-wrote all the songs. The other members are Lee Harris on thumb stroked bass and Paul Webb on drums. The latter two drive the album along with a literal hypnotic insistence. However I cannot imagine that the magic wouldn’t have been as arresting if it were not for the keyboards and production of Tim Friese-Greene. Strangely he decided not to allow his picture on the sleeve and be considered a member of the band. (On other subsequent albums he continues to play keyboards and produce). His keyboards provide repeated signatures or alluring melodies. Production is crisp and is still a contemporary sound; 36 years later it really jumps out of my speakers. The separation of all the instruments is complete and that clarity highlights each solo whether electric guitar or a passing jazz trumpet on one of the nine tracks.

Such was the unique sound that the band are often cited as influences by such luminaries as Radiohead, Tears For Fears, Elbow and Steve Wilson from Porcupine Tree. I’m so glad to reacquaint myself with the album, now I just need the red XR3i I owned to transport me back to the mid Eighties.

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