“Brian Eno will be so proud” is undoubtedly what Talking Heads must have thought when they wrapped up production for Little Creatures in 1985. Especially if he got a load of the track “Walk It Down,” which is one of the few songs that resembles their former selves. It is also one of two songs on the record to feature steel guitar, giving it a country music sheen – or at the very least something you might hear on a Dire Straits record. This was a daring move on the Talking Heads’ part, who make this new sound their own with their distinctive, quirky style.
One look at the colorful cartoon cover (something their sister band Tom Tom Club was known for) and the delightfully gaudy outfits worn by the band on the back cover, you just had the sense that this wasn’t quite the same Talking Heads we had grown accustomed to. Their embrace of pop is solidified here, easing comfortably into the mainstream enough to make Little Creatures a bona fide double platinum seller. Though their cheeky and artsy side was still intact, this album showed us a lighter, more upbeat version of TH we hadn’t seen before.
You’d be hard pressed to tell the synths from the guitars on this one. A good example of this is the lead-off single “And She Was,” which helps to set a shimmering, ecstatic tone for the wide range that is to follow. Sometimes the monotone vocal delivery of David Byrne and Tina Weymouth can grow tiresome, but the strong melodies conceal this weakness nicely. What they lack in singing ability, they make up for with their edgy personas. The one thing Talking Heads has never been is dull.
Case in point: how they handle the slow songs “Give Me Back My Man” and “Creatures Of Love.” The former is so off-kilter and off-key at the beginning, it almost makes you cringe. But by the song’s end, you are marveling with how they manage to pull it off. Ditto with the title track, which is something of an Asian-influenced torch song for the band in the way it builds and swells with emotion. This is not easy material to handle, yet Talking Heads make it seem effortless.
The entire second half is top-notch alternative pop fare. With its deliberate pace, “Stay Up Late” is a comedic triumph with a lyrical storyline only new parents can appreciate. The complex arrangement of “Television Man” seems to point Talking Heads in the direction of their follow-up album/movie project True Stories, while the closing cut “Road To Nowhere” has always been my favorite TH tune – mainly due to its mighty fine Peter Gabriel-esque video clip.
All in all, Little Creatures is a solid effort by Talking Heads, one that finds them trying new and different musical styles on for size just for fun.