When I was younger, I was wild about Talking Heads’ third album, Fear of Music. And it is certainly a great album. But I have to admit to not enjoying it as much now as I did then. I think it is because it is a transitional album. The best example of that is “Life During Wartime.” That song points directly to by far the greatest Talking Heads album, Remain in Light.
I’m not doing any research for these posts, so forgive me for just telling you what I remember. But I recall an interview with Tina Weymouth where she said that while they were working on the song, at least three of them were aware that there was a collaboration going on. It seems that David Byrne was resistant to giving anyone else any credit. But given the later history, we know with some certainty that Byrne is something of a horse’s ass — maybe not as bad as Lou Reed, but also without all the drugs to explain the behavior.
Anyway, the song sounded very new. It seemed the first time that funk and punk really merged together to create something greater. And the lyrics are funny, although I don’t think they are meant to be. David Byrne as a lyric writer has always reminded me of David Lynch as a director: someone very interesting, overly serious, and never quite aware of what he’s doing. That has led to greatness for both men, but also some of the most pretentious nonsense I’ve ever encountered.
“Life During Wartime” features prominently in Stop Making Sense. And it works really well. But it also loses its essential punk feel and becomes more funk with an edge. I don’t think I can explain it. But the album cut is better.