Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Talking Heads vs. Television: And The Winner Is...?

Aquarium Drunkard merits a shout-out for doing what it has done exceedingly well for the past dozen years, and counting -- culling infectious, trippy music from the fringes and the ages, and giving it centre stage. There aren't too many surviving examples of musical blogs exploiting the deep potential of dusty digital archives -- AD set the standard and maintains it to this day, for which I am grateful.

Their FB page recently re-posted this BBC video chestnut from 1984: Talking Heads vs. Television. I hadn't seen it yet, so I clicked over.
I wondered if "Television" didn't refer to the NYC art-rock crew that called it quits and left the CBGB stage a year or two before Talking Heads took it over. But, no, this was a declared war against the medium itself. Cue the eye-roll-inducing pretensions, then, and on with the show.
This is what we're up against.
I would have lapped it up in '84. The Heads' insistent "braininess" was a huge part of the appeal, back then -- I was a giddy fan, largely because this fer sher warn't no AC/DC show! This bunch had college smarts! Which I, too, was in the process of acquiring! Hey, I was even reading the Existentialists -- voluntarily! Surely this was the soundtrack to all the angst I was steeping myself in!
Irony alert!
I was a supercilious prat, in other words -- memories of which were painfully brought back to the fore as I watched the super-cuts of pro-TV mixed with Byrne's footage of the über-pedestrian. Funny how what's revealed in the exercise isn't necessarily what was intended.
Got the message yet?
There is a flip-side to the staging, however, which remains the coin of the realm. The concert experience, which Byrne cannot help but address in rapturous tones, is almost impossible to "capture" via television technology. Static cameras, tiny screens, bands and fans whose fashion sense pins them like butterflies to the cork of a doomed, bygone era -- attending the concert may have been a thrill, but a television broadcast will kill it as competently as any bell-jar.


Throw in the po-mo mix-and-match and the exercise does, indeed, become an experience more elevated than what one expects from the television of the time -- if not quite as thrill-inducing as seeing Stop Making Sense on the big screen a few months later. For those with the inclination and the hour, it's worth checking out.

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