talk talk

In 1982, Talk Talk established themselves as synth-pop masters. Fitting nicely between Ultravox and Duran Duran, The Party's Over featured swirling electronics and New Romantic dancebeats epitomized by the singles "Talk Talk" and "Today". Melodic and melancholy, it sounds surprisingly strong even now, if a bit dated, and hints at the greatness that was to follow.

With 1984's It's My Life, the band digs deeper into late Roxy Music territory, focusing on atmospheric keyboards and quavering, emotional vocals from Mark Harris. The title track was a global hit, and songs such as "Dum Dum Girl", "Renee", and "Such a Shame" showed a maturing use of dynamics and arrangements. Lots of beauty here, and a growing sense of experimentation.

The Colour of Spring, from 1986, found Talk Talk foregoing their patented synth sounds for something warmer and more organic. Though they would soon forego catchy melodies as well, this album is still quite tuneful. "Life's What You Make It" became another huge hit, while "Living in Another World" actually rocks. There is delicate, zen-like beauty in "April 5th" and "Chameleon Day", and when a choir chimes in on the final song the effect is exhilarating.

1988's Spirit of Eden finds the band pared down to Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene, with various additional musicians. Also pared down was any regard for pop music per se. Experimentation, improvisation, and occasional dissonance are the orders of the day. A tranquil if somewhat unsettling aura pervades, beautiful none the less.

The final Talk Talk album, Laughing Stock (1991), continues and perfects the avant garde "post rock" of the previous disc. The heartfelt yearning that - like the cover art by James Marsh - is prominent on every one of their albums remains, only to resolve into a sort of musical silence. A far cry from their Top-40 beginnings, these last two albums may, at times, test the patience of the casual listener, but if you're craving a serious musical experience, there are subtle rewards to be reaped.

 A couple of excellent live albums were eventually released, and in 1998 Mark Hollis put out a solo disc which further refined the sound of Talk Talk's later work. All in all, a remarkable (though criminally overlooked) discography.

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