There has never been a band exactly like Talking Heads. They took everything from punk to pop to avant-garde to funk and twisted it all up into a signature sound that has influenced not only other bands, but music as a whole. With their wild experimentation and disregard for the norm, they seemed like a band never meant to be mainstream popular, but they were, and the state of music post-Talking Heads is better because of it.
If you’re a fan of Talking Heads, here are five other bands that you may be into.
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Gang Of Four
Gang Of Four are credited with being one of the leading forces behind the post-punk movement, but their genre-mashing sound and atypical approach gave them an edge. It has the aggression and abrasive nature of punk, but their sharp energy and pop sensibility lifted them above the sometimes straightforward punk bands that came before and after.
When Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea first heard Gang Of Four’s debut album he said, “it completely changed the way I looked at rock music and sent me on my trip as a bass player.”
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
There are plenty of things to like about Talking Heads, but one of the most appealing elements of the band is frontman David Byrne’s unhinged delivery. Not too many singers have come anywhere close to what David Byrne does, but it’s very difficult to listen to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah without drawing the comparison. The similarities between the indie band and Talking Heads may not go too far beyond the singing, but if you’re looking for someone that sounds like David Byrne, check out Alec Ounsworth.
English new wavers XTC never had a slew of big chart-topping hits, but for decades the band received critical acclaim and built a cult following. XTC drew from glam-rock and punk in the ’70s and ’80s, but at the heart of it all—just like Talking Heads—it was their smart songwriting that yielded pop gems good enough that genre stopped mattering.
Public Image Ltd
After the Sex Pistols broke up, Johnny Rotten formed Public Image Ltd and got much more experimental. The band’s second album, Metal Box, was an influential project to the post-punk scene, and if what you like about Talking Heads is their unrestricted ventures into the avante-garde, PiL’s Metal Box is a must-listen.
The Feelies were another band that came up in the late ’70s and early ’80s and never achieved mainstream success, but live on through their influence. They are included in the post-punk batch of rockers, but brought a jangly, guitar-heavy, melodic twist to the table. Of their debut album, Crazy Rhythms, the band’s Glenn Mercer said, “The sound we were after was a reaction against the punk scene… Being a little older, we felt it had all been done before. We wanted the guitars to be cleaner, and we started experimenting with a lot of percussion.”
As with the Talking Heads, The Feelies were looking to do things differently, to push things further, and they did just that. The music on that debut wouldn’t be out of place in today’s indie world, and that says a lot about a project from 1980.