When Talking Heads fans discuss the band's catalog, 1985's Little Creatures
is often treated like a punching bag. "This is where the band started to go downhill," they'll say. "This is the worst Talking Heads album by a mile!" What makes this all so weird is that, well, Little Creatures
is actually pretty great! It's the band at its catchiest, to be sure, and it's about as far from the Brian Eno-produced masterpieces Fear of Music
and Remain in Light
as you can get, but this is still one hell of a pop album.
That's right, folks, this is a pop album
. It seems that frontman David Byrne actually sat down in a studio, wrote some riffs, put together some lyrics that rhymed and then presented them to the band, very different than the way things were done for, say, 1983's jam session-driven Speaking in Tongues
. I'll be the first to admit that the results here are mixed and that Little Creatures
is not a perfect album by any stretch of the imagination, but for people to view it as some sort of catastrophe is downright silly.
First off, we have "And She Was" and "Road to Nowhere," two of the band's very best songs. Opening the album, "And She Was" is maybe the most radio-friendly song Byrne ever wrote. The lyrics are simple, the music is simple and the melody, well, its pretty simple, too, but it all adds up to an easily enjoyable track that will make even the grouchiest soul want to get up and dance. And then closing the album, we have "Road to Nowhere," a song some of you might recognize from that horrible/hilarious Fred Savage/Howie Mandel movie "Little Monsters" from the 80s. This isn't just kid's stuff, though. "Road to Nowhere" is the band at its best, a classic that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as such other Talking Heads classics as "Psycho Killer," "Heaven," "Once in a Liftime" and "Burning Down the House." The song begins with just the band singing vocals, vocals that sound remarkably passionate, and then the music kicks in, sounding like something that might be played at the ferris wheel at a circus. It really is a phenomenal song and, even if the rest of Little Creatures
was awful, it woud be worth owning just for this one track.
Between "And She Was" and "Road to Nowhere," of course, there are several other songs. A few of them kind of suck ("Perfect World" doesn't seem to go anywhere and the boring "Television Man" is way too long), but the rest is pretty damn good, though none of it is anything terribly earth-shattering. "Give Me Back My Name," for instance, features some great guitar work. And "Creatures of Love," in all of its catchy glory, is almost as strong a pop song as "And She Was." You even get "Stay Up Late," a strong, piano-fueled track that reminds me a lot of Elephant
-era White Stripes.
LIke I said, this album is certainly better than a lot of Talking Heads fans might lead you to believe. It's catchy, full of energy and it might just be the best Talking Heads album to listen to on long road trips since their 1977 debut. And it only has two songs I consider incredible, so the score can't get much higher than a 3.5, but that doesn't mean the other songs are all bad. There isn't really a whole lot more to say ... sorry if this is short, but it's nine songs from a band that has already been coverd quite a bit on this site. The bottom line is this: If you like Talking Heads, and don't mind the thought of David Byrne being a fairly normal dude for once, I'd suggest you seek out this album. You can probably even score a used copy since so many people seem to hate it. Check it out!