:: Saturday, September 11, 2004 ::

Punk Rock Countdown: No. 22
"New Feeling," by Talking Heads
The second track of Talking Heads' first album, 77, exemplifies the band's quirky sound. Opening with a twangy, rockabillyish riff, followed by simple but odd guitar rhythms with single lead notes thrown in here and there, as if at random, "New Feeling" sets the stage for the trademark sound of Talking Heads: lead singer David Byrne's hesitant, shaky vocals. It's not...yesterday...anymore..., sings Byrne in that off-kilter, disconnected style.

As Talking-Heads.net explains it, some of the CBGB crowd, where Byrne and company got their start in the mid-1970s, worried that Talking Heads were too eager to "sell out." (They even appeared on American Bandstand, of all places, in '77.) But with "New Feeling," the band proved they would be just as weird on vinyl as they were at the club. Talking Heads "started to sound on record they way they did downtown":
the staggered rhythms and sudden tempo changes, the odd guitar tunings and rhythmic, single-note patterns, the non-rhyming, non-linear, non-narrative lyrics full of aphoristic soundbites that came across like odd remarks overheard from a psychiatrist's couch, and that voice, singing above its normal range, leaping into falsetto and from there into strangled cries like a madman trying desperately to sound normal.

When I first heard this strange sound around 1979 or 1980, "New Feeling" symbolized the idea of "new wave." From that opening declaration -- It's not...yesterday...anymore -- I understood that music was changing. It was indeed a new feeling -- a new thing. It wasn't rock'n'roll as we'd come to know it. It was stretching the boundaries -- even stretching the boundaries of punk. But that was okay by me.

:: Andrew 10:12 + ::

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