I’ve offered my “Talk Talk” testimony so many times, it’s probably getting a bit ridiculous. To sum up, I really, really, really, really, really (well you get the idea) like Talk Talk, and I have since the spring of 1987, when I first encountered them by chance. Further, I would have to rank “Spirit of Eden” as one of my two or three rock albums of all time.
So, much to my surprise the other day, I saw that Mark Hollis had emerged from his seemingly J.D. Salinger like-life (may Salinger rest in peace) to release, under his official direction, a Talk Talk compilation. It’s entitled “Natural Order,” and it just arrived.
Most of the others, frankly, from “Natural History” to the remixes to . . . . Well, let’s face it, Talk Talk just can’t be broken into parts. The albums come as a whole. I don’t just plop “Colour of Spring” or “Spirit of Eden” or “Laughing Stock” into the CD player when dropping the kids off at school or running to the supermarket to get milk. No, these last three albums require attention and love. Listening to them casually would like roller skating through the Field Museum in Chicago or jogging through the Nelson Museum of Art in Kansas City.
Out of curiosity and out of a somewhat obsessive love, then, I purchased this new compilation, Natural Order. After reading some quick notes about it on the web, I’d assumed that Mark Hollis reworked some of it as well, perhaps remixing or re-engineering some of it. Sadly, no. There’s absolutely nothing new on this CD–everything is from something else, with one exception. Even the “alternative version” of “After the Flood” is from the little known “Missing Pieces.” Even the lyrics and notes are simply reprinted from other releases. There’s nothing new about why this or that selection, and there’s nothing even to indicate who put this together–at least not explicitly on the packaging.
Frankly, as much as I hate to admit this, there are only two interesting things about this release. First, the blending together of “Eden” and “After the Flood” is pretty stunning.
Second, though, is simply Hollis’s decisions about what to include. Knowing what I know now, I could have saved the money and simply made a mix of this exact same set list. With the one exception of the Eden/After the Flood, I have it all. And, I’m sure, I could’ve figured out how to splice the two songs.
Still, I’m amazed at what Hollis picked. If this really is how he sees the development–the ordering–of Talk Talk, it’s simply fascinating. I must admit, I was very taken with his list, and I found all of the songs to be gorgeous. I know these songs inside and out. I probably know them too well. But, in this new context, the songs sound gorgeous in a whole new way. They remain organic, as they did on the original albums, but the organicism seems to be a new planting after the fields have remained fallow for decades.
There’s no way to deny the intense religiosity of the music as well as the lyrics of Hollis. Yet, here, there’s something wildly uncanny about beginning with the confessional and despondent “Have You Heard the News Today?” and ending with the confessional and the joyful “Taphead.” In the center, the praise of April 5th and the pleading (a rewrite of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s famous prayer) of “Wealth.”
Dust to, dust to, dust to, dust consume
For what is worth
No death here. Only rebirth.