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Talk Talk -Their Legacy, Influence and Disappearance.

In 1984 music video was king, and it often didn't really matter what your tune sounded like. As long as you had some sexy, sweaty bodies undulating on the hood of a car or a leather studded fist punching into the air,you had a hit video. And having a hit video meant having a hit song. TalkTalk’s “It’s My Life”  would thankfully buck this troublesome trend. The video still made the song a hit, but these visuals were made up entirely of animal wildlife, with a few shots of lead vocalist and the band’s songwriter and prime motivator Mark Hollis thrown in for good measure. While the video was certainly visually striking, there was no denying that in this case, the tune took center stage. Written in the key of E flat with a throbbing R&B inspired bass line, it was the perfect backdrop for Hollis’s soaring vocals and the springboard that launched the band to popularity. 

They would follow up this initial success about two years later, by releasing the near perfect LP, “The Colour Of  Spring”. This effort would even further build off the group’s decision to eschew the synth-pop leanings of their earlier years in favor of traditional instruments and more complex arrangements. Guest artists Steve Winwood, David Rhodes and Robbie McIntosh among others, provided key contributions towards the albums wide palette of sounds. The single,“Life’s What You Make It” was a bona fide international hit, hovering on average at or near the top 20 all over the world. The album was an even bigger success, reaching number 8 in the UK, and remaining in the charts for 21 weeks. 

Sales within the US of “Spring” were also encouraging, enough so that the band’s record label EMI granted the band an unlimited budget for their next album along with no time constraints towards finishing it. EMI also agreed to stay away from the entire creative process and wait patiently for the finished product. What they got in late March of 1988 was the band’s magnum opus, “Spirit Of Eden”. The record was yet another quantum leap forward, artistically speaking. Consisting of six tracks born out of countless hours of improvising and painstaking overdubs, the record veered as far away from the commercial leanings of their earlier efforts as humanly imaginable. In several instances, the use of silence was as powerful an instrument as any other performance committed to the tape. The sounds that did appear, were more stylistically reminiscent of  jazz greats such as Monkand Coltrane. “Spirit Of Eden” is drenched in minimalism, with passages that often move from aching beauty to jarring unsettledness.  

EMI would initially balk at releasing the record, asking Hollis and his collaborator, Tim-Friese-Greene to go back and write something that would be more commercially viable. They vehemently objected, and with so much money committed towards the project, the record label had no choice but to put it out as delivered. Marketing the record proved to be problematic, mainly due to the contents inside combined with the band’s refusal to tour in support of it, and that there was initially no single release. An edited version of “I Believe In You”, a sad and haunting track about the perils of heroin addiction would be released later that fall, but would fail to chart. 

As is the case with most great works of art, “Spirit Of Eden” as well as its follow up,  1991’s“Laughing Stock” proved to be highly influential towards the musicians that heard it, too numerous to mention here. Some sources go as far as to cite these two releases as solely responsible for the birth of the genre known a spost-rock, which encompasses bands that would emerge in the late 1990’s such as The Verve and Radiohead. Mark Hollis would go on to release one self titled solo album in the mid nineties before disappearing from the music scene entirely. Although he is sorely missed, all one really has to do is listen to the evolution of his entire body of work to realize that his journey from synthesizer dance tracks to claustrophobic elegance transcends all eras of music and oozes with timeless beauty.

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