My Second Favourite Album of All Time: TALK TALK - "THE COLOUR OF SPRING"

The year was 1986.  Winter was losing steam, and the hope of Spring was right around the corner.  Snow was melting, birds beginning to sing.  The climate of the world was going through some immense changes... both politically and musically.  As we worked our way into the final two years of the Reagan era, it seemed that we were surrounded by a world of change.

Musically speaking, the New Romantic movement of the early 80's was beginning to fade, although it's leading players played on.  Bands like Martin Fry's ABC had shed their glamorous gold lame suits and had opted for more trendy, campy apparel.  They had replaced three very serious musicians with a short bald man and a woman, both of whom were curiously absent from anything musical on the album.  Their roles?  To introduce themselves.  David Yaritu was more than happy to address us as "Disco citizens", while Eden simply wanted us to "kiss her snatch".  The sad reality is that they were there for one simple purpose.  The image.  Martin Fry, himself, had stated in interview that the music wasn't important, but that it was all about the image.  Even some of the finest bands of the early 80's had become caricatures of themselves.

Except for a rare few.  Case in point:  TALK TALK

While Talk Talk emerged in the early 80's New Romantic/Synth Pop scene, they began a gradual descent into a very ethereal form of Post Rock.  Between the release of their debut album, THE PARTY'S OVER to IT'S MY LIFE, one may have noticed a subtle change in sound.  The electronic drum pads were replaced with real drums.  While there were still a few synthesizers to be found, there was an emergence of more traditional keyboards, as well as guitars.  Fast forward to late Winter/early Spring of 1986.  I still remember vividly the cold Winter night when I first heard the single, "LIFE'S WHAT YOU MAKE IT".  I was taken aback by the total absence of the familiar "New Wave" elements of their earlier music.

I liked what I heard... but it still didn't feel comfortable to me.  Only time would tell if Talk Talk were to remain one of my favorite bands.  I needed to hear the full album.

One evening in March of 1986, I finally had that opportunity.  It was a cool, overcast day.  Snow lay scattered about, but the dawning of a new season was imminent... and excitement filled my soul in many ways.  There were three releases that I had been dying to pick up and, with cash in hand, I headed down to Starbound Records to pick them up.  

First was the third release by British Synth-Pop duo, Blancmange.  BELIEVE YOU ME was just making its presence known stateside, although it had been released the previous year.  Second was the sophomore release by Prefab Sprout, TWO WHEELS GOOD, another 1985 release, but thanks to the release of the single, "APPETITE", it had become one of my "must have" albums.

But, at the top of my list of things to by was the new album by Talk Talk, "THE COLOUR OF SPRING".  I excitedly headed home to hole myself up in my basement bedroom.  The first album to grace my turntable was the Talk Talk.  I opened it excitedly, looking to see if there were liner notes.  Indeed there were, including singer Mark Hollis' famed chicken scratch.  Honestly, you can barely understand a word that he says, let alone sings... and reading those words is even MORE difficult.

As the needle settled into the groove, the first song began.  "HAPPINESS IS EASY" begins with a simple drum beat, becoming more complex with each passing moment.  When the music began to fill the room, I was shocked.  This was NOT the Talk Talk that I knew.  Yes, it was the same three key players... it was even produced by the "unofficial fourth member" of the band, Tim Friese-Greene.  Tim not only produced, but co-wrote and played on all four of their albums, even venturing, on occasion, into their live band.  For all intents and purposes, he WAS a member of the band, but simply wanted to be distanced from them, for whatever reason.  He even refused to appear in any publicity photos.  That said, Talk Talk would not be Talk Talk without his musical genius.

As the album progressed, the music was like a foreign dish.  The taste is somewhat appealing, yet is not familiar to your taste buds.  You like it, but you aren't completely comfortable eating it.  It literally took me months to truly fall in love with the album.

The beauty of what Talk Talk did, in regards to the world of music, is that even to this day, the music does NOT sound dated.  I listen to THE COLOUR OF SPRING, even as I type this, and it sounds like it could have been released today.  What they did back in the 80's never really did fit into the world around them, with the possible exception of THE PARTY'S OVER.  

THE COLOUR OF SPRING was riddled with guest musicians playing all sorts of eclectic instruments, including the help of the legendary Steve Winwood on several key tracks.

The thing I love about the album is that it not only doesn't tire with repeated listens, but it becomes more endearing.  To this day, nearly 27 years later, I am dumbfounded by the beauty found within the album.  Forget the "singles" from the album ("Life's What You Make It", "Living In Another World", "Give It Up")... go to the song closing side one of the album, "April 5th".  To this day, I celebrate the fact that my second daughter was born on... you guessed it... April 5th.  It's her birthday song, and a true work of beauty at that.

In conclusion, I will post another videos from THE COLOUR OF SPRING... the aforementioned "single", "Living In Another World".  All videos were directed by Tim Pope, my favorite music video director of all time.  He is best known for his 80's, early 90's work with The Cure.  He was a bastion of creativity, always coming up with unique ways to celebrate a song.  If you don't believe me, look at the video for "Life's What You Make It".  The band filmed it in the middle of the night, out in the woods.  And if that isn't enough, I love the attention to detail that Tim Pope paid to the song.  You will notice bassist Paul Webb leaning against a tree, singing background vocals.  On the song, there is no bass guitar... Paul simply sang backup vocals.

And that, my friends, is just the tip of the creative and eccentric iceberg of Tim Pope's video direction.  A perfect glove to fit the music of my... yes... my favourite band of all time, TALK TALK.