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Saturday, 11 July 2020

The Band Who Took A Leap: Talk Talk

If you ask anyone about Talk Talk, most would label them as "an 80s synth-pop band", but little do they know that it's untrue. With lyrics often articulated as "haunting" by many, Talk Talk's frontman and musical visionary Mark Hollis endeavoured to be the creator of music that didn't restrict itself to just one genre but embody the best of all styles. Talk Talk would be among one of the few bands who couldn't care less about commercial success and embraced their passion for making music that broke barriers. Starting out as makers of synth-pop in 1981 with their debut album, "The Party's Over", the band redefined their approach to music with each record and ended up pioneering what is known today as "post-rock" through "Spirit of Eden" (1988) and "Laughing Stock" (1991). Consisting of Mark Hollis on vocals, Lee Harris on drums, Paul Webb on bass guitar and Simon Brenner on keyboards, you should not be missing out on their discography this summer!

The age of the new-wave music saw the rise of this English band, standing alongside their contemporaries The PoliceThe SmithsThe CureElvis CostelloNew OrderTalking HeadsDepeche ModeDuran Duran and so on. You can't link Talk Talk to a unique vibe, they happen to possess many of such. Upon listening to their discography, you can't categorise them. The usual habit of the bestowment of a specific vibe or sensation to a band is not possible when you listen to these guys. The first track on their debut album, 'Talk Talk' (named after the band itself), which opens with Hollis' energetic cries of "Hey!" contrasts with the title track from the second album, "It's My Life" in musical quality. Both tracks are characterised by a fresh sound and the subject matter of "an unfaithful lover" coupled with sound engineering that's on point. 'It's My Life', arguably described as one of the best songs by the band encompasses distinct moods within the song. As the song nears its chorus, there's a certain calmness followed by some excitement, and during the chorus, Hollis just sounds very angry. The music video of 'It's My Life' is revolutionary. Unlike the usual and normal lip-syncing videos of the time, it composes of various footages of wild animals shot in the London zoo with Hollis gracing the screen occasionally, refusing to lip-sync. Even the Discovery Channel would pale in comparison. 

To give an enriched detail of their sound, I asked three people (Pooja, Aarcha, Stefan) to listen to them and furnish their opinions. After listening to Talk Talk for the first time, Pooja said, "Each song has a totally different music composition, the instruments and stuff, which changes the vibe." Each album flaunts a different sound. The first two albums were marked by a very poppy sound while the third album, "The Colour of Spring" (1986) saw their divergence from their usual tone, and it also ended up being the group's best-selling album ever! Mark Hollis wanted their music to speak for itself and was uncomfortable with the widespread acknowledgement and acclaim that they amassed owing to their hits: 'It's My Life' and 'Such a Shame'. The group strived to be more experimental afterwards and the last two albums, "Spirit of Eden" and "Laughing Stock" marked a radical transition from earlier albums and confused the fans and critics alike. 

Unconventional music groups like this come by rarely and when asked about Talk Talk, music enthusiast Stefan says: "They obviously have a thing for rhythm. I mean, it's crazy how they get away with such open songs. There's a lot of space. It's not packed, you know. They sound like Boney M if they were an English band that had sad faces and lived down the street from Joy Division or something." I must say that I've never heard anyone describe the band in such a creative way. He continues, "Sometimes you listen to a track like I Don't Believe in You and you hear sustain and reverb and you're like what? But even in those tracks there are elements of staccato." He also adds that he finds their music “dramatic”.

As a usual listener to music that spans the classic era, Aarcha describes Talk Talk's music as very refreshing and says, "Their music is a go-to if you're bored of listening to usual songs. There's something new that pops up with every Talk Talk song. Like, their style is fresh." After having pioneered a new genre, Hollis released a self-titled solo album in 1998 and disappeared from public view; the band ceased to exist. Hollis chose family over fame, remarking that he couldn't balance both stardom and his familial responsibilities at the same time. Often praised for being a band that wasn't swept away from its creativity by commercial pressure, they left behind a legacy that possibly cannot be replicated.

Songs to start with: Talk Talk, Today, Mirror Man, Dum Dum Girl, Renee, It's You, Such a Shame, It's My Life, Life's What You Make It, Living in Another World, Give It Up, The Rainbow, Desire, Ascension Day, New Grass

Abhirami M G

About Abhirami MG: Abhirami M G is a BA Honours student in English, who is extremely enthusiastic when it comes to classic rock. She enjoys reading and has a penchant for history and science fiction. She hopes to pursue a Masters in Anthropology and is an avid Netflix binge-watcher.

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