Talk Talk don't get the credible kudos they deserve these days. For a lot of us born in the late '70s or early '80s they frequently pop up as nothing more than a minor ping on the musical radar at best. Their most recent claim to fame being No Doubt's hugely successful cover of their early '80s smash, “It's My Life.”
But that wasn't always the case with Talk Talk. Originally formed in early '80s London, their debut album, The Party's Over, was released to decent commercial success, and their label, EMI, attempted to sell them to the masses as another electro synth-pop new romantic band molded along the lines of Duran Duran. It wasn't until 1983, with the jettisoning of their keyboardist, that Talk Talk revealed signs of greater musical depth and complexity than their hair sprayed and blouse wearing chart brethren. Their sophomore album, It's My Life, a collection of accessible yet intelligent pop that increasingly veered away from the predictable flock of tears for fears sound of the day, was a commercial smash on both sides of the Atlantic.
Which is why their fourth album, 1988's Spirit of Eden, is such an eye opening jewel. It's the sound of a completely different band. Out with the pop and in with moody, epic and ethereal experimentation, the only identifiable feature remaining is front man Mark Hollis' graceful vocals and lyrical intensity. Spirit of Eden, at its very core, is seeped in the sensibilities of what would eventually be defined in the 1990s as post-rock. Recorded in a church in Suffolk over a 14 month span, the album is a collection of experimental ambient tones, jazz structures and lyrics dealing with emotional upheaval tinged with hope. Eschewing all manner of the electronics that originally brought the band international fame, Spirit of Eden focuses on organic soundscapes doused in organs, trumpets, stand up bass and violins; creating music far outside the realm of pop, and delving into an emotionally immersive terrain over a span of six tracks, each well over the standard pop three minute mark, that can be as draining as they are uplifting. It flirts with subtlety and mood in a manner tipping its hat far more towards jazz then the electro tainted pop of their earlier albums. It's a genre busting work revealing the inherent possibilities in music. An album to plunge yourself into again and again over the years, the way you do with a head scratching novel that you periodically find yourself re-reading. And like those novels, no matter how often you re-approach Spirit of Eden, you always find something new.
1. The Rainbow
5. I Believe In You