Tristan's Reviews > Fear of Music

Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem
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's review
Jun 04, 2012

really liked it
Read in May, 2012

Fear of Music, Talking Heads' third album, is like the overlooked middle child in the band's classic four albums, and as the immediate predecessor to the band's worldbeat masterpiece, 1980's Remain In Light, FoM is easily reduced to the status as the band's "transitional" album, an awkward vestigial organ in the band's evolution. Lethem's book fortunately debunks this version of history and rescues the album from the shadows. In this respect, the book is a necessity. Lethem's prose is heavy on impressionistic images and light on history or investigation--rather the author acknowledges the conventional wisdom and dismantles it by dissecting the album track by track and tracing out the thematic threads throughout the album. What we see is that this is a very rich and textured album. Some sample observations: the single-word titles are like a table of contents or an inventory of elements for analysis, "Cities" and "Life During Wartime" are rival siblings, and "Paper" is a snotty counterpoint to the reverential "The Book I Read". I wish there were a little more context and trivia about the album contained in the book, but Lethem prefers to eschew the nerdy details during his interrogation of the album. Fortunately, this podcast interview between Lethem and Andy Zax features clips of rare Talking Heads material and includes clips of David Bowie, Brian Eno and James Brown for points of reference. Actually, start with that interview, and if it piques your interest, read the book.

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