Picks and Pans Review: Tom Tom Club
updated 12/07/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/07/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST
Like a rhythm conglomerate, the four Talking Heads have been diversifying. Last winter lead singer and composer David Byrne (and honorary Head Brian Eno) broke ground with the African-and-funk influenced My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Then Byrne composed 80 minutes of evocative, kinetic pieces for his collaboration with avant-garde choreographer Twyla Tharp, The Catherine Wheel. Now the other Heads are sticking their necks out, using the group's last album, Remain in Light, as a musical touchstone. In fact, many of the personnel from that album—singer Nona Hendryx, guitarist Adrian Belew, keyboardist Bernie Worrell—serve as multi-instrumentalist Jerry Harrison's key collaborators on The Red and the Black. In cuts like Things Fall Apart and Worlds in Collision, Harrison carries on the anxious, aggressive side of the Heads persona. Harrison's music is varied and always sure-handed. As a lyricist, though, he falls short of Byrne's spooky Everyman poetics. Tom Tom Club, also featuring Belew, is led by the Heads' husband-and-wife rhythm section of Frantz (drums) and Weymouth (bass). They feature the euphoric, witty side of the Heads most in evidence on the group's first two albums. In the clever, funky Wordy Rappinghood, Tina presents "a rap race with a fast pace." As her sisters Lani and Laura chant, "What's a word's worth?" Tina intones, "Eat your words, but don't go hungry/Words have nearly always hung me." Tina's too modest. Her rhymes put Debby Harry's "Man from Mars, eating cars" in the tricycle class. And all eight cuts have irresistible bounce. People tend to think of the Heads as the tool of Byrne's artistry. These discs suggest the talent and inspiration has always been deeper and more shared.