Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Talk Talk

Talk Talk

It’s My Life

Talk Talk was a popular English music group that was active from 1981 to 1991. In mainstream circles, the group is most well known for their early synthpop/New Wave singles, including the international hits "Today", "Talk Talk", "It's My Life", "Such a Shame", "Dum Dum Girl", "Life's What You Make It" and "Living in Another World". However, in the music community they are recognized more for the artistic achievements of their later experimental albums, recognized as forerunners to the post-rock genre.

Although they were associated with the New Wave movement and bands such as EMI stable-mates Duran Duran, Talk Talk had a progressive depth their contemporaries lacked. With the addition of unofficial fourth member Tim Friese-Greene in 1983, who replaced Simon Brenner on keyboards after the "My Foolish Friend" single and became producer for the band, each successive Talk Talk release became more sophisticated and innovative. Friese-Greene and Mark Hollis were responsible for the group's sound and direction. Friese-Greene did not generally play with the band during live shows; Talk Talk stopped playing live in 1986.

They had a huge success in 1984/85 in continental Europe with the album It's My Life. The accompanying single "Such a Shame" (a song inspired by the book The Dice Man) became a major hit and a number one in several countries during this period, and an icon for many New Wave European listeners. The aforementioned title cut was also a big hit. But, strangely, this album and its singles were relatively ignored in their native UK, even though they maintained a substantial cult following.

They eventually abandoned the New Wave style completely with the minor classic The Colour of Spring in 1986. This became their biggest studio album success in the UK, partly thanks to the Top 20 single "Life's What You Make It", and was again a hit album in Europe, featuring another Top 40 single: "Living in Another World".

Later period
The success of The Colour of Spring afforded the band an open budget and schedule for the recording of their next album. About a year in the making, Spirit of Eden was released in 1988. The album was assembled from many hours of improvised instrumentation that Hollis and Friese-Greene had edited and arranged using digital equipment. The result was a mix of rock, jazz, classical, and ambient music. While critically praised, the album was not as commercially viable as its predecessors, and the band declared they would not tour in support of it.
During the making of Spirit of Eden, Talk Talk manager Keith Aspden had attempted to free the band from their recording contract with EMI. "I knew by that time that EMI was not the company this band should be with," Aspden said. "I was fearful that the money wouldn't be there to record another album." EMI, however, wished to keep the band on their roster. After many months of litigation, the band ultimately succeeded in extracting themselves from the contract. EMI then sued the band, claiming that Spirit of Eden was not "commercially satisfactory," but the case was thrown out of court.

In 1990, Talk Talk agreed to a two-album contract with Polydor. They released Laughing Stock on the Verve Records imprint in 1991. By this time, Webb had left the group. Talk Talk had by then morphed into what was essentially a brand name for the studio recordings of Hollis and Friese-Greene, along with a bevy of session studio players (including Harris). Laughing Stock crystallized the experimental sound the band started with Spirit of Eden (which has been retroactively categorized as "post-rock" by some critics). Laughing Stock adopted an even more minimalist style than its predecessor, but this did not stop it achieving a respectable Top 30 showing in the UK Albums Chart.

With the band now released from EMI, the label released the retrospective compilation Natural History in 1990. Surprisingly, it went on to sell over one million copies in Britain alone and rose to number 3 in the UK album chart. The 1984 single "It's My Life" was also re-released, and this time became the band's biggest success in their native country, making number 13 in the UK Singles Chart. Following up on this renewed popular interest in the band, the label released History Revisited in 1991, a compilation of 12 inch singles and alternative versions which made the Top 40, an unusually high showing for a remix album. The band sued EMI for remixing their material without permission.

Breakup and aftermath
After Laughing Stock, Talk Talk disbanded. Paul Webb and Lee Harris went on to form the band .O.rang, while Tim Friese-Greene started recording under the name Heligoland. In 1998, Mark Hollis released his self-titled solo début Mark Hollis, which was very much in keeping with the minimalist post-rock sound of Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock.

Webb also collaborated under the name of Rustin Man with Beth Gibbons and released Out of Season in 2002, while Harris featured on the Bark Psychosis 2004 album, ///Codename: Dustsucker.

1982: The Party's Over
1984: It's My Life
1986: The Colour of Spring
1988: Spirit of Eden
1991: Laughing Stock

External links
Within Without - Comprehensive fan site
Paul's Talk Talk Pages Spirit of Talk Talk

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