The sound of silence: the best of Talk Talk

In five albums recorded before Suede and Nirvana, Talk Talk learned how to disappear into its music before disappearing entirely. On two underappreciated post-New Romantic albums Mark Hollis and his bandmates already sounded uncomfortable with gesture; “Tomorrow Started” and “Does Caroline Know” surrender movement for quiet pastures sodded with keyboard pads. 1986’s The Colour of Spring was a perverse development: an album for arenas just when Hollis was about to vanish. There’s a hysteria to the way in which the organs and saxes are mixed on “Give It Up” and “Living in Another World,” to Hollis’ honeyed-mucus timbre; these are parts performed for a final time almost as parody. I’ll leave it to colleagues who’ve loved the ululations of Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock longer than I have to analyze them. On “New Grass” Hollis and crucial collaborator Tim Friese-Greene use the studio to manipulate silence: an organ drop here, an onomatopoetic Hollis note there (by this point the act should have called themselves Mumble Mumble). Even the moments of discrete, discreet bursts of guitar anarchy (“Ascension Day”), which Radiohead studied to distraction, unfurl as if evaporation is imminent.

I’ve included a track from Hollis’ 1998 solo album.

1. New Grass
2. Life’s What You Make It
3. Tomorrow Started
4. Ascension Day
5. Eden
6. Talk Talk
7. I Believe in You
8. Such a Shame
9. The Party’s Over
10. After the Flood
11. Give It Up
12. Dum Dum Boys
13. Happiness is Easy
14. Taphead
15. It’s My Life

“The Watershed”

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