Talk Talk’s 1982 debut album The Party’s Over may have given the band some exposure on MTV through the song Talk Talk but the band was unhappy with being part of the new wave music scene. While a collaboration with famed Roxy Music producer Rhett Davies for the non-LP single My Foolish Friend helped expose the band, keyboardist Simon Brenner left the band after its recording leaving singer Mark Hollis, bassist Paul Webb, and drummer Lee Smith to carry on. In need of a new member and a new direction, the band met up with a young up-and-coming producer named Tim Friese-Greene who would become the band’s unofficial fourth member. Friese-Greene’s involvement would impact the band musically as he would eventually become Hollis’ songwriter partner as they worked on the band’s second album It’s My Life.
Produced by Tim Friese-Greene, It’s My Life is an album that took the synthesizer-driven new wave sound of The Party’s Over to much broader sounds towards art rock. Featuring bits of jazz elements that would be prominent in their later recordings, the album also explores heavier themes lyrically as singer Mark Hollis would have more control on what to say. The album also allows bassist Paul Webb and drummer Lee Smith to loosen up as musicians making the band more in tune with their own ambitions which includes an appearance from Robbie McIntosh of the Pretenders. The result would be a breakthrough album for Talk Talk.
The album opener Dum Dum Girl is led by steady mid-tempo beats from Lee Webb and Paul Webb’s funky bass wobble with Tim Friese-Greene’s flowing yet layered synthesizers that includes some soft, pulsating beats. Mark Hollis’ calm vocals take charge as he sings about a girl that accuses a boy of trouble as it’s a song that features different tempo changes and hypnotic arrangements. Such a Shame is a song that starts off as a mid-tempo track with smooth, pummeling beats and spurting synthesizer wails as it goes into a faster tempo for its chorus. Hollis’ direct vocals sings to lyrics that reflects the idea of fear and shame as it is one of the band‘s best singles for its thrilling presentation. The ballad Renee features a smooth, throbbing rhythm, lush synthesizers, and Hollis’ somber vocals that recalls a woman being taken advantage of.
The title track is a mid-tempo track with spurting bass lines, steady drum fills, and layers of blaring yet buzzing synthesizers. With its somber lyrics about life and taking control, Hollis sings in a determined yet captivating tone as it’s one of the band’s finest moments. Tomorrow Started features throbbing rhythms, searing synthesizers, wailing trumpets, and washy acoustic guitars as the mid-tempo ballad has Hollis’ chilling vocals playing to the song’s dark yet mesmerizing lyrics. The Last Time is an upbeat track with swooning synthesizer melodies and a bopping rhythm where Hollis’ vocals takes in a lower register. The song’s lyrics reflect the feelings of being hurt as it is one of the most accessible tracks on the album.
Call in the Night Boy is a synthesizer-driven track with bopping rhythms and wavy synthesizers that accompanies Hollis’ vocals for this song about a young man’s night ending. While there’s moments that the song breaks away from its new wave presentation, it’s a song that doesn’t really fit in since it’s one of the last songs that former member Simon Brenner co-wrote with the band. Does Caroline Know? is led by throbbing percussions and swooning synthesizer melodies that has Hollis singing coolly to the song’s longing lyrics about heartbreak as it’s one of the standout cuts on the album. The album closer It’s You is a mid-tempo track with wobbly bass lines, pummeling beats, and spurting synthesizer melodies. Hollis’ wailing vocals play to the song’s angry lyrics filled with anguish that is accompanied by fluid synthesizers and driving guitars as it closes the album in style.
Released in February of 1984, the album drew excellent reviews from critics while the single for It’s My Life gave the band it’s biggest hit in the U.S. along with its accompanying video on MTV. While the album didn’t do well initially in Britain, the band did find an audience in places around Europe where they were becoming bigger. Yet, the success would allow the band to take drastic steps into what they wanted to do next as Tim Friese-Greene would become a key member despite his willingness to stay in the studio.
It’s My Life is a superb album from Talk Talk that is a major improvement over the band’s debut album in terms of a broader production and more compelling songs. While it may not live up to the later records they make, it is still an album that offers a lot of moments as well as an idea of where they were going from The Party’s Over to The Colour of Spring. Particularly as it features great singles like Dum Dum Girls, Such a Shame, and its famed title track that was later covered by No Doubt in 2003. In the end, It’s My Life is a stellar yet exciting album from Talk Talk.
© thevoid99 2011