Review Summary: Pop Art...Rock.
Alright let's talk about Talk Talk. This band gets a lot of hype, but I'm going to try and look beyond that here. Yes, it's possible that Spirit of Eden is the first ever Post-Rock album, and yes I know it was followed up by their critically acclaimed "master-work", Laughing Stock. There's a lot more to it than those basic talking points. Sorry about using the word talk so much, but then again, blame them, they did it first. In reality, the overarching style of this album, labeled one of the major branches of the relatively ambiguous "post-rock" tree, is just a synthesis of the experimental/avant-rock of times past. This seems logical, as the experimentosphere has always been one of consistent building. Spirit of Eden brings together the cut-and-paste jazz-tinged rock of Can, the drone of the Velvet Underground, the ambiance of Eno's material (particularly on "Wealth"), and the couldn't-care-less feedback freaks of Noise Rock together to form something unique but not entirely inconceivable or out of this world.
In some ways, Spirit of Eden feels like a sketchbook, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. The band clearly felt free to do what they wanted (not a luxury most major-label groups are afforded), and their artistic prowess is totally evident. The first three songs on the album are perfect, from the heavily treated fuzz-squeals of the trumpet on "The Rainbow" to the wild rolls of percussion on "Desire" to the wonderful "Eden", which comes to brink of collapse several times, always falling back into a comfortable groove.
As the album carries on, things slow down a bit. "Inheritance" is a loosely collected number that kind of loses me at the odd flute interlude (still a worthy song). "I Believe in You" picks up any kind of slack left by its predecessor. Soft and calming, this track still manages to have some serious power, particularly because it was written to address the devastation heroin can wreak on those who fall victim to its oppressive charm. "Wealth" is a really beautiful tune, but is the slowest on the album and probably would have served better somewhere in the middle instead of as the finale.
Everywhere, Mark Hollis' exceptional voice carries the weaker songs to success and the stronger songs to angelic heights. This guy is a singer, and his pop sensibilities are potent. Each song, no matter how sparse and improvisational, is brought together as a solid unit with the hooks he pulls right out of his diaphragm. And this ***'ll get stuck in your head too! Catchy art-rock! In the end, Spirit of Eden is a formidable album, and one that deserves your attention. Don't overlook.