Picks and Pans Review: Remain in Light
Any box-toting street kid will tell you that rhythm is where it’s at. The Heads have always agreed. For all their deadpan wit and intellectuality, the band’s first three albums owed their drive to the most sophisticated rhythmic patterns in the pop lexicon. Black radio stations as well as the usual progressive FM outlets might justifiably get behind Remain in Light, because the album draws its inspiration from some of the purest rhythmic sources of all: urban funk and African percussion. Abandoning the structures of their previous work, the Heads offer eight intense, extended rhythmic workouts, each one built on a different network of instruments and sound textures. Much of the variety is owed to Brian Eno, the electronic avant-gardist, who produced the last two TH albums and now sits in as a full-fledged player. Four other musicians augment the basic foursome, including singer-percussionist Robert Palmer and Nona Hendryx, formerly of La-Belle. David Byrne’s lyrics are as quizzical, funny and haunting as ever, but on several cuts Byrne, plus backup singers, carry on two or three contrasting vocal lines at once. The polyphony is exhilarating. If black and white music became more polarized in the 70s, Remain in Light suggests a rapprochement is possible, without compromising the beat or the art.