Talk Talk

Spirit of Eden

by Will Cummings

In 1988, it would have appeared that Talk Talk was dead in the water after releasing a sizable commercial disappointment with Spirit of Eden. With only six songs (most of which cruising beyond six minutes in length), it’s easy to see why this was such a challenging album at the time from a band that could be considered another 80s one-hit wonder in the United States. This album sounds a lot more like Bitches Brew than “It’s My Life”. But 35 years later, it’s clear that this album and its follow-up are easily some of the best albums of all time and are both enormously influential on rock music.

In many ways, this album is meditative. There are extended pockets where very little is happening, whether it’s complete silence or what I imagine to be the spinning of a pencil sharpener on “The Rainbow”. The album works on its own time and it might take a decent amount of patience to find what makes it so special. It can take minutes for songs to really begin, but it’s always worth the wait.

The percussion and rhythms are often easy-going but so much of it is absolutely infectious. “Eden” is a trek through several fantastic progressions that often lead to the mix completely opening up for Mark Hollis’s vocals and it’s just magical. The songs often transition into each other through gentle instrumental throughlines that each develop into their own unique soundscape, cohesion granted by the extended (and often difficult) recording of the album.

Even the songs that don’t come to my mind too often are magnificent in their own way. “Desire” has a wild harmonica section that could score a Western movie. “Inheritance” has a gorgeous woodwind section and a great bass refrain during the verses. I should note that the vocals are usually unintelligible, at least to me, but Hollis is such a great singer that it almost works to the music’s benefit.

“I Believe In You” has always been my favorite and it’s the most immediate song on the album. The chorus is just transcendent. There isn’t a more apt word. The choir section is maybe the best thing that has ever happened, I would argue. It’s just a perfect song, one of the best you will ever hear. I interpret the end of the album to be an end-of-life experience, but a large part of that is how heavenly it all sounds. With all of its biblical themes and organ passages, this album feels at home in a church during the most beautiful funeral there ever was. It’s perfect.