. . .
After the singer-songwriter orientation that was the focus of both Little Creatures and True Stories, Talking Heads went back to the formula that created Remain in Light and Speaking in Tongues for 1988’s Naked: a melange of Latin funk and Afrobeat based on band jams and run through David Byrne’s still-unique sensibilities.
And while Naked was definitely a step above True Stories and (maybe even) Little Creatures or Speaking in Tongues, it didn’t come anywhere close to the groundbreaking heights of Remain in Light, which is as unfair as it is true.
Naked was recorded in Paris and was produced by Steve Lillywhite, so it sounded pretty great without kowtowing to the 1980s in the same way that Lillywhite’s Rolling Stones album — the ever-underrated Dirty Work — did just a couple of years earlier. There were also notable guest stars on Naked, the most notable we’ll talk about tomorrow.
And so while most of the songs on Naked were uptempo jams, augmented by horns and percussion, I’ve always gravitated to “The Facts of Life,” which stood out like a nightmare in the middle of a series of fun dreams. Featuring a slow, unsteady beat from Chris Frantz, and spooky keyboard riff from Jerry Harrison & Wally Badarou, “The Facts of Life” is in the vein of “Drugs” from Fear of Music or “The Overload” from Remain in Light, except for the ominous music is offset by playfulness of the lyrics.
Monkey see and monkey do
Making babies, eating food
Smelly things, pubic hair
Words of love in the air
Byrne is crooning at the top of his range here, and so when he complains that “love is a machine without a driver” you can hear echoes of his earlier anti-love protestations like “I’m Not in Love” here, but with a wink from an older, wiser man who has given into the inevitability of it all. That’s just the facts of life, m’aam.
People fall in love like in fairy tales
I’m not sure I like, what they can do
I’m afraid that God has no master plan
He only takes what he can use
As “The Facts of Life” stumbles around, it gets augmented by what I thought was a pedal steel guitar, but I think is a kora, played by Mory Kante, and just as you realize that all of the weirdness and sound effects make it their most Eno-esque track since Eno vanished into U2 world, Byrne undercuts it all pulling out a great falsetto.
Someday we’ll live on Venus, men will walk on Mars
But we will still be monkeys down deep inside
If chimpanzees are smart then we will close our eyes
And let our instincts guide us, oh oh oh oh no
Compared to the rest of Naked, “The Facts of Life” is a deeply deeply weird song: I’m not even sure if I liked it all that much back then. But of course, we thought that Naked was simply the most recent Talking Heads album, as opposed to the final Talking Heads album, the saddest fact of life of all.
“The Facts of Life”
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