Speaking In Tongues takes David Byrne’s weirdness, tosses it in a blender with the avant garde funk sounds that Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz developed during their time as the Tom Tom Club, and what comes out is pretty damn glorious. It’s accessible without feeling like a sellout move. And it’s a perfect album for 1983, when the vanguard was led by artists that blurred genres with ease.
“Girlfriend Is Better” is a love song, but not a love song in the way that…say, “Hello” by Lionel Richie is a love song. I mentioned David Byrne’s weirdness in the first paragraph, and I mention it again here to let you know that if you are new to the Talking Heads, and you don’t have a lot of backstory on the band, you might be looking at some of the lyrics like “what the fuck is he singing about?” With that said, you don’t even have to speak English to realize that joy is the emotion being expressed during this song. “Girlfriend Is Better” is pure joy.
And here’s where I’ve got to give props to not only the oft-forgotten fourth member of the Heads, keyboardist Jerry Harrison. Here’s also where I give props to Bernie Worrell, who joined the expanded version of Talking Heads for the Tongues album and its subsequent tour, Stop Making Sense (the title of which came from a “Girlfriend is Better” lyric.) Worrell’s cartoon-ish squiggly synth flavor is all over this song and album, whether directly or by influence. It’s kind of amazing what can move a band to become its best self, and make no mistake, Speaking In Tongues is Talking Heads at their best!