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|Life's What You Make it,
-- Talk Talk
Mark Hollis (vocals, keyboards),
Lee Harris (drums), Paul Webb (bass)
"In which the tale is
told of how shiny pop also-rans from the early 80s ended up recording some of
the loveliest sounds of that or any other decade. Its a story apt to
confuse. People familiar with early Talk Talk might be surprised by their later
work. What connects, say, 1982s single, Talk Talk and
I Believe in You, a track from 1988s Spirit of Eden
album? Apart from the distinctive, mournful voice of chief songwriter Mark
Hollis, the immediate answer appears to be, not a lot. The first is snappy,
effervescent pop; the second is not really a song in the verse-chorus-verse
sense. If the term had not been abused, you might even call it mood
music, instruments providing colour as much as musical
structure. Its a good tale, then: one of a band learning on the job,
finding new styles even though the old one was fine and bankable enough.
Hollis formed the band in 1981 with drummer Lee Harris and bassist Paul Webb. Hit singles, Talk Talk and Today quickly followed. At the time, they dealt in a superior version of electro dance, bolstered by a smart grasp of melody. It worked well, though Holliss voice suggested he was suffering from something. Or maybe he was just pondering the next move. 1984s Its My Life followed in a similar vein, but 1986s The Colour of Spring hinted that there might be life beyond the short pop song. Hence, Spirit of Eden, released two years later less a collection than a suite of sounds...."
-- Robert Yates, Q Magazine
¼ 1982: The Party's Over
"Originally made up of Hollis, keyboardist Simon Brenner, bassist Paul Webb, and drummer Lee Harris, the band formed in the U.K. in 1981 and released their debut album The Party's Over in 1982 during the height of the New Wave era. This record spawned their first hits, Mirror Man and Talk Talk, though today it sounds a tad superficial. During sessions for the next album, the band was reconfigured without Brenner. "
-- Mac Randall, Yahoo! Launch
½ 1984: It's My Life
"After an unremarkable debut, Talk Talk regrouped and refashioned themselves more in the style of sophisto-era Roxy Music while developing their own voice. It's My Life shows a great leap in songwriting, the band making highly personal statements with a sexy, seductive groove and a diversity that transcends the synth-pop tag. Synthesizers still play a dominant role, but the music is made far more interesting by mixing 'real' instruments and challenging world music rhythms seamlessly with the technology. Still pulling off the catchy single (like Dum Dum Girl and the title track, as well as the simply sublime Does Caroline Know?) on It's My Life, Talk Talk also proved themselves capable of achieving a cohesive album... "
-- Chris Woodstra, AMG
½ 1986: The Colour of Spring
"As it happens, sitting between the post-new romantic pop of 1982s The Partys Over and 1984s Its My Life, and the studiously esoteric, minutely crafted offerings that were 1988s Spirit of Eden and 1991s Laughing Stock, this 1986 album is perfect vinyl-junkie fodder. Songs as sweetly sophisticated as Happiness is Easy and Give It Up are never going to sound good confronted with pre-CD problems such as dust and static, but the rolling groove and echoing guitar of Lifes What You Make It and the bluesy, hammond-heavy Living In Another World could never sound as deeply warm in any other format. "
-- Q Magazine
1988: Spirit of Eden
"Ages away from their debut synthpop release, Spirit of Eden sees Mark Hollis confidently guiding his band into more textured, atmospheric and ambient music, sounding almost like David Sylvian's solo releases. With Hollis' velvety mournful voice being the only element linking Spirit of Eden to The Party's Over, Talk Talk willingly step away from the pop charts success, never to revisit it again. While the album stands as a solid piece of work as a whole, I Believe in You and Desire might very well be two of the best songs Talk Talk ever produced."
-- Said Sukkarieh, musicfolio.com, 6/02
1990: Natural History: The very Best of Talk Talk
A collection of hits and outstanding tracks taken from Talk Talk's first three albums.
¾ 1991: Laughing Stock
(...) Laughing Stock is an album produced from artistic struggle, the work of men fighting to claim the peripheries of their pop remit. Untouched by contemporary trends you will find no indie-dance, grunge or shoe-gazing here Talk Talk were quite simply doing their own thing, following dark paths that will surprise anyone who remembers them merely for their brush with chart fame and the long-coated appearances on Saturday Superstores Video Vote.
From the opening Myrrhman a haze of strings and guitar to the improvisatory squall and swell of After the Flood, its clear that the singers concerns stretch beyond mere love and into the spiritual realm. You could see it as the deconstruction of the relatively conventional hook-driven Lifes What You Make It. Tracks such as Taphead, the soulful Ascension Day and New Grass, with its string flurries, rise slowly from a mist of instrumentation, but the emotional heat here stops Laughing Stock from being mere academic indulgence.
Most vitally, though, this is music brimming with ideas, unafraid to turn from populism to musical libertarianism.
-- Victoria Segal, The Times
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