Picks and Pans Review: Speaking in Tongues
Like musical bloodhounds, the Heads have been pursuing rhythm hither and yon since their first album in 1977. They now have their quarry treed. When they first picked up the scent, they were traveling along the art-rock frontier. The pursuit of rhythm led them toward Africa and the Middle East, and then it steered them back to the street—urban black America. And that's where they are now, all four of them baying around the funk tree trunk. Prince, Rick James and George Clinton may be looking down at them from the upper branches feeling...flattered? Vindicated? Amused? Usurped by the white egghead establishment? Maybe all of the above. There is no doubt the Heads have made this a great album, sensuous, multilayered, tailor-made for dancing away hot summer nights. It may be the ultimate marriage of funky black motion and arty white intellection. But it does not cut the kind of pioneering swath the Heads' four previous studio albums did—not to mention the members' various solo efforts. Maybe that's demanding too much, but at least the lyrics could say something. Heads fans from way back will remember gems like Psycho Killer and Found a Job that sharply depicted characters or told pointed and humorous stories. David Byrne's latest lyrics generate an aura of mystery and innuendo ("Flying saucers, levitation/Yo! I could do that/Get ready for heavy duty/Go on, give it a chance"); as for meaning, they don't bear inspection.