Going through Remain in Light, I find that I’m able to contextualize it far better than I could at the time. (How could it be otherwise? I didn’t know what was coming.) For example, “The Great Curve” points directly to their next album, Speaking in Tongues — although I would argue that it is better than anything on that album. Meanwhile, “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” goes back to “I Zimbra” off Fear of Music.
Remain in Light really is the sweet spot in the evolution of the band. It represents that point when they were not a pop band. But they couldn’t hold onto that and so they slipped into straight, mostly uninspired funk, and then into what I can only call straight pop — the kind of thing that is designed for the Billboard charts. Remain in Light inspires me as much today as it did 35 years ago.
I’m going to highlight “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” because, well, just listen to it! In this case, the drums and bass are kind of wild. Yet they still nail down the madness that is going on above it. It is probably the most African inspired tune on the album. But again, it isn’t something that sounds added; it is organic. This is probably because the album was a collaborative project. Later Talking Heads albums would turn into more “David Byrne and the Others.” This is why I now have no real interest in seeing a concert by Byrne, but I would be interested in the other three. I know they have performed together in the past. (That’s not to take anything away from Byrne, who I do think is brilliant.)
So here is “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” which, not surprisingly, also seemed to be about some kind of paranoid and isolated person.