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Fear of Music

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Fear of Music, the third album by Talking Heads, was recorded and released in 1979. It is, like each of their first four albums, a masterpiece. Edgy, paranoid, funky, addictive, rhythmic, repetitive, spooky, and fun - with Brian Eno's production, it's a record that bursts out of the downtown scene that birthed the band, and hints at the directions (positive and negative) Fear of Music, the third album by Talking Heads, was recorded and released in 1979. It is, like each of their first four albums, a masterpiece. Edgy, paranoid, funky, addictive, rhythmic, repetitive, spooky, and fun - with Brian Eno's production, it's a record that bursts out of the downtown scene that birthed the band, and hints at the directions (positive and negative) they'd take in the near future. Here, Jonathan Lethem takes us back to the late 1970s in New York City and situates Talking Heads as one of the most remarkable and enigmatic American bands. Incorporating theory, fiction, and memoir, and placing Fear of Music alongside Fritz Lang, Edgar Allen Poe, Patti Smith, and David Foster Wallace. Lethem's book is a virtuoso performance by a writer at the peak of his powers, tackling one of his great obsessions.


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Fear of Music, the third album by Talking Heads, was recorded and released in 1979. It is, like each of their first four albums, a masterpiece. Edgy, paranoid, funky, addictive, rhythmic, repetitive, spooky, and fun - with Brian Eno's production, it's a record that bursts out of the downtown scene that birthed the band, and hints at the directions (positive and negative) Fear of Music, the third album by Talking Heads, was recorded and released in 1979. It is, like each of their first four albums, a masterpiece. Edgy, paranoid, funky, addictive, rhythmic, repetitive, spooky, and fun - with Brian Eno's production, it's a record that bursts out of the downtown scene that birthed the band, and hints at the directions (positive and negative) they'd take in the near future. Here, Jonathan Lethem takes us back to the late 1970s in New York City and situates Talking Heads as one of the most remarkable and enigmatic American bands. Incorporating theory, fiction, and memoir, and placing Fear of Music alongside Fritz Lang, Edgar Allen Poe, Patti Smith, and David Foster Wallace. Lethem's book is a virtuoso performance by a writer at the peak of his powers, tackling one of his great obsessions.

30 review for Fear of Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alias Pending

    Before we begin, I have to confess this one star rating is a lie, it is, in fact, as they say on Amazon, a zero star rating, but I didn't have that option. Warning. I'm not going to be nice. Short Review: Shit Sandwich. Medium Sized Review: Approaching the end of this work, I desperately wanted the meth-addled author to finally confess his own secret, "I'm just kidding. No one could possibly write an essay about Fear of Music that was this pretentious, this smug, this self-absorbed. I just wanted Before we begin, I have to confess this one star rating is a lie, it is, in fact, as they say on Amazon, a zero star rating, but I didn't have that option. Warning. I'm not going to be nice. Short Review: Shit Sandwich. Medium Sized Review: Approaching the end of this work, I desperately wanted the meth-addled author to finally confess his own secret, "I'm just kidding. No one could possibly write an essay about Fear of Music that was this pretentious, this smug, this self-absorbed. I just wanted to see how many people would make it to the end without having an aneurysm." End: Lethem doesn't apologize for his actions, however. And there ends my relationship with this author. I will never touch anything by him again (except the Exegesis of Philip K Dick which Lethem had something to do with, unfortunately). His babbling stream of consciousness faux-intellectualism is enough to induce READ RAGE. This sorry volume was neither educational nor entertaining, and if this is what the 33 1/3 series has to offer, I'm done with them too. Time to listen to Fear of Music and try to forget this ever happened.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    My favorite type of critique on a particular piece of art is the one where the author uses it as a subject matter - and then goes off into the inner world of that art work - or in this case the Talking Head's album "The Fear Of Music." Jonathan Lethem tears into the album if it was a mysterious lost code in his childhood. If you want to know about the making of "The Fear of Music," or what the band was thinking about - this is not the book. But if you are either a fan of Lethem or just My favorite type of critique on a particular piece of art is the one where the author uses it as a subject matter - and then goes off into the inner world of that art work - or in this case the Talking Head's album "The Fear Of Music." Jonathan Lethem tears into the album if it was a mysterious lost code in his childhood. If you want to know about the making of "The Fear of Music," or what the band was thinking about - this is not the book. But if you are either a fan of Lethem or just interested how an album can affect someone - then this is a mighty good read. One of the better books in the pretty mighty world of 33 1/3 series.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nat

    Every couple of years, the 33 1/3 series has an open call for proposals (the current deadline is actually today, so get to work on your deconstruction of Spiderland or Exile in Guyville (which were, from a quick look, the most proposed albums in the last call)). In the last open call, my brother and I submitted one of two proposals for Fear of Music. I think we might have overemphasized the importance of the Baader-Meinhof gang for understanding the album (in 1979, Baader-Meinhof terrorists were Every couple of years, the 33 1/3 series has an open call for proposals (the current deadline is actually today, so get to work on your deconstruction of Spiderland or Exile in Guyville (which were, from a quick look, the most proposed albums in the last call)). In the last open call, my brother and I submitted one of two proposals for Fear of Music. I think we might have overemphasized the importance of the Baader-Meinhof gang for understanding the album (in 1979, Baader-Meinhof terrorists were crossing into the United States using forged Iranian passports--look it up in the NYT). Anyway, we didn't get picked. But it was almost as good to see that Jonathan Lethem was going to write about the album. And the remark that makes it totally clear that Lethem is coming at the album from more or less exactly the same place as my brother and me is the following: "If you cared for [everything urban and remotely alienated] as a mode of inquiry, as an angle of attack on everything, there were only two choices: Devo, and Talking Heads. The boy in his room looked at that menu and said I'll have both please" (p.84). We did that/felt that way too! Here are a few specific worries (these did not distract from the fact that the book is a huge amount of fun): There was an annoying "warning" right at the start of the book that readers may suffer demystification/mystification "vis-a-vis a cherished cultural artifact" after reading Lethem's analysis. Really? I'm not too worried. My Fear of Music credentials are pretty solid. For example, I attended a school in Germany named after the author of the lyrics of "I Zimbra" (Hugo Ball Gymnasium, in Pirmasens, Germany). Occasionally Lethem gets carried away and says some stuff that's either clearly false or just nonsense. Some examples: p.17-18: "It's been proposed that 'Fear of (signifier)' is the key to parsing the album: the 'real' subject being fear of air, fear of drugs, fear of heaven, fear of cities and animals and so forth". -How is that at all plausible? "Cities" is not about fear of cities--its mood is giddy about moving around. "Heaven" is not about fear of heaven: it's "exciting" and "fun". Anyway. p.18: "There's never anything you can point out to another person and say: 'This is mind, right here!' The more you press the case, the more the subject slips away. And yet it's also everywhere. Or at least everywhere we look". -Really? There's mind in my coffee? p.19: "Perhaps if mind exists at all, it's a bourgeois vestige, best left behind like the burned notebooks in 'Life During Wartime': mind won't help you survive". -Try doing without mind, I expect you won't last long. p.73: "we're never less free from ourselves than precisely in the act of failing...to free ourselves". -Is this true? I doubt it. I actually find it kind of hard to understand what this is saying. p.78: [Describing "Air"]: "The song flirts with metrosexual vanity---what's happening to your skin, buddy? Buy a higher grade of sunblock. Give me a break". -I doubt that that's a misreading that would occur to someone who has ever had real trouble with his skin. p.91: Here's a more subtle linguistic issue, concerning this line in "Heaven": "It's hard to imagine that nothing at all/ Could be so exciting, could be so much fun". Lethem says: "The word 'nothing' is itself a hinge, or dumb pun: is nothing exciting, a description of a situation that's rather convincingly boring..., since when nothing's exciting there's nothing interesting at all---or is nothing exciting, a very rare and fascinating condition in which the less there is the more scintillating we're finding "it" to be?" Ok, Lethem proposes two possible readings of the line: 1. There is nothing that is exciting. 2. Nothing(ness) is exciting. I think the only reasonable reading of the line from Heaven is (2.)---it's just not possible to hear it as saying "It's hard to imagine that [there is] nothing at all/ [that] could be exciting". Notice that that reading requires dropping the "so". If I paid more attention in intro to semantics I might be able to say why that reading isn't available more convincingly. p.98: [Discussing David Byrne's possibly having Asperger's]: "The question, then, is not how Aspergian David Byrne might be---or whether or not that is even a question worth asking, or appropriate to ask...outside of current fads in the history of the Categorical Imperative". -I know what the Categorical Imperative is, and I have no idea what that sentence means. p.86: there is a goofy misspelling of "Sao Paulo" as "Sau Paulo". Those aren't big problems, though. And they don't really distract from some really awesome lines and observations about the album. I won't spoil them by simply recounting them, except for the following two one liners: [Discussing "Big Country"]: "This is the Cary Grant North by Northwest crop-duster sensation---the nightmare, in flyover country, of becoming the one flown over" (p.42). [About "Air"]: "We have nothing to fear but nothing itself". There were a couple of discussions that were really nice: -Lethem discusses whether Fear of Music is a "concept" album (p.33), and he spends some time discussing the fact that many of the song titles are one-word labels: "Mind", "Paper", "Animals", "Air", "Cities", "Drugs". But you could argue that it's literally a concept album, in the sense that those song titles are just names for simple concepts. -After reading his account of "Paper" I would want to argue that it has a lot to say about bureaucracy: after spending time in a French immigration office, the line "Even though it was never written down / Still might be a chance that it might work out" resonates very strongly. -Lethem's discussion of "Cities" is awesome, and I'm now convinced it's my favorite Talking Heads song.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kaoru

    I've been listening to „Fear of Music“ quite a lot lately, and finding out that there was a book in the „33 1/3“ series about it, I picked it up to learn something about the making of the album and a lot of other behind-the-scenes-stuff. After a few pages though I had to realize that it was one of those books. That's right, this is not one of the „33 1/3“ releases in which there's something to learn, this is one of the books written by people who consider themselves as far more interesting than I've been listening to „Fear of Music“ quite a lot lately, and finding out that there was a book in the „33 1/3“ series about it, I picked it up to learn something about the making of the album and a lot of other behind-the-scenes-stuff. After a few pages though I had to realize that it was one of those books. That's right, this is not one of the „33 1/3“ releases in which there's something to learn, this is one of the books written by people who consider themselves as far more interesting than the music they're writing about. So what you get is a 160 pages long ramble about his personal interpretations of the lyrics and soundscapes with obscure references to art and architecture and whathaveyou. So nothing about how it came to be that the band hooked up with Brian Eno in the first place, anything about the production, the contemporary reception, nothing, anything, zero. Pretty telling are the chapter titles, as they reveal the author's 'cleverness' and his approach to writing this book. „Is Fear of Music a Talking Heads Record?“ Come on, really? „Is Fear of Music a Text?“ Blimey. „Is Fear of Music an Asperger's Record?“ Christ on a stick. So, here in return are the chapter titles from the book that I'm going to write about the author (assuming that I'll ever come with enough indulgence that could fill 160 pages): - „Is Jonathan Lethem an author?“ - „Is Jonathan Lethem a purple tinted Cronos? - „Is Jonathan Lethem entitled to rectangular grass cubes that twaddle in peace?“ - „Is Jonathan Lethem largely bespoken before chivalrous oranges above a sunset?“ - „How many Jonathan Lethems does it take to change a light bulb? - „Will you marry me?“ - „I love a good fart joke!“

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Miss Eliza)

    I find it ironic that the most solipsistic book I have EVER read uses the word so many times. I would hate to know Jonathan Lethem, a man who is such a self centered pretentious ass that a book about the Talking Heads became a book about himself... though if I ever meet him, he's paying me back for buying this book, which deserves no stars and no reviews written because it would waste even more of my time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    An author I like writing about a band I like? What could go wrong? Oh, where to begin? Maybe it's that he has no insights into the music? Or the words? Or the history of the band? Or the place of this album in pop history? Or why it's enjoyable? I kept wondering... How did he bamboozle the publishers into paying for these random observations? This may not be the worst book ever written. But damn, it's got to be in the bottom 10.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    "Recommendation: While using this product, actually listening to the record is strongly indicated. I don't mean just on those crappy little speakers built into your computer, either. And turn it up, for fuck's sake." Here's a link to get you started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cb6iz...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Al

    Having now read six books in this series, I think it's pretty safe to say that they primarily exist as an argument that writing about a single album should exist in no format longer than a "lengthy essay," or perhaps a "pamphlet." I actually enjoyed this book the second best of those I've read, (in rough order, Let's Talk About Love, Fear of Music, Bee Thousand, Armed Forces, Daydream Nation, Loveless) and really appreciated that Lethem devoted himself wholly to interpretation, but about 66 2/3% Having now read six books in this series, I think it's pretty safe to say that they primarily exist as an argument that writing about a single album should exist in no format longer than a "lengthy essay," or perhaps a "pamphlet." I actually enjoyed this book the second best of those I've read, (in rough order, Let's Talk About Love, Fear of Music, Bee Thousand, Armed Forces, Daydream Nation, Loveless) and really appreciated that Lethem devoted himself wholly to interpretation, but about 66 2/3% of the book consisted of excessive verbiage, irritating tics, and b.s. Of course, that's an understandable outcome when tasked with turning out ~140 pages about ~40 minutes of music. The best I can say for it, and probably the best one can say for any book in this series, is that Lethem's interpretation was often insightful, and ultimately served to enhance my appreciation of both the album and the band.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jade Walters

    Jonathan Lethem is both an excellent writer and, to me, and immensely annoying and smarmy guy. This is worth reading if you’re a fan of the band or the album, and many of Lethem’s criticisms and descriptions of the music were fantastic, but *god* did his voice get to me after a while.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    I learned a lesson from this book: Next time, if I can truly tell that I hate reading a book, I won't be ashamed of abandoning it. Why waste precious time? I thank God I don't listen to music the same way as Jonathan Lethem. This would be a zero star review if it could be.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Incomprehensible, faux-intellectual word vomit that sometimes mentions Talking Heads.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    In my view, the best 33 1/3 books offer a potent mix of personal recollection and cool, well-researched observations about the players, sounds and contexts behind a particular album. Lethem goes all-in purely for his own personal obsessions and interpretations in the book. He certainly has the literary and intellectual chops to pull it off, and yet... I often found myself wanting more than just his memories and hipper-than-though riffing on the dark, weird soundscapes of Talking Heads' third In my view, the best 33 1/3 books offer a potent mix of personal recollection and cool, well-researched observations about the players, sounds and contexts behind a particular album. Lethem goes all-in purely for his own personal obsessions and interpretations in the book. He certainly has the literary and intellectual chops to pull it off, and yet... I often found myself wanting more than just his memories and hipper-than-though riffing on the dark, weird soundscapes of Talking Heads' third record. It's a decent entry in the series and his philosophical riffs are enjoyable to read; it's just not what I personally go to the series for. Definitely play the record and listen along if and when you read this one, his descriptions of the music are fun and sly.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tripp

    Part of the 33 series on important LPs. Lethem moves song by song through the record, interspersing his deep dives into each track with more global treatments that have titles such as "Is Fear of Music a Science Fiction Album?" Lethem is clearly a fan of all kinds of music and is able to find correspondences and comparisons between this Talking Heads album and the music of James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, Bob Dylanand much more. Part of the 33 ⅓ series on important LPs. Lethem moves song by song through the record, interspersing his deep dives into each track with more global treatments that have titles such as "Is Fear of Music a Science Fiction Album?" Lethem is clearly a fan of all kinds of music and is able to find correspondences and comparisons between this Talking Heads album and the music of James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, Bob Dylanand much more.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I'm pretty well a sucker for books by Lethem, and this one was getting rave reviews all over the place, seemingly by people who weren't really familiar with the concept of the 33 1/3 series. I'm gonna break it down for you: it's a whole book about one album, which means for this book, a chapter for each of "Fear of Music"'s eleven songs, and a chapter between each trying a different lens through which you might approach the record. That's what Lethem does, and what most of the books in the I'm pretty well a sucker for books by Lethem, and this one was getting rave reviews all over the place, seemingly by people who weren't really familiar with the concept of the 33 1/3 series. I'm gonna break it down for you: it's a whole book about one album, which means for this book, a chapter for each of "Fear of Music"'s eleven songs, and a chapter between each trying a different lens through which you might approach the record. That's what Lethem does, and what most of the books in the series (this is the 86th book in the series, if you're curious) does, so thinking it's his crazy idea or he's a genius for undertaking it might mean you're kind of an idiot, or at least a book reviewer who isn't really paying attention.... Anyhow, Lethem is no idiot, and he is pretty smart about these songs, and this album. He does a little of the Greil Marcus style drill-down-deep analysis on these songs and how they tease out different kinds of neuroses. He imagines a storyline, a series of characters and a fantasy landscape in which these songs develop a kind of personality under pressure, though he doesn't do as much as Marcus would with the social history. I mean, there's some of that in here, but not in an overwhelming kind of way-- understanding this album might not help you to better understand America in the 20th century, in other words. But I do think there are flashes more personal than anything Marcus would attempt-- there's a really telling and moving moment where Lethem explains his interest in punk music as a way to a) rebel against mainstream culture without b) embracing black culture, like the nascent hip hop movement. I don't know why, but this really resonated with me, as a kind of third way I think a lot of us have found as young people, and that hopefully you kind of grow out of but which is still very powerful, in terms of identifying your tribe and all that. In some senses, that was very evocative of _Fortress of Solitude_, where Lethem approaches some of these same ideas but with a character more open to black pop culture; I found this potrait, for all its complexity and discomfort, more powerful, but you know, maybe it wouldn't tickle everyone the same way. I tried to do like Lethem said, and listen to this album, and especially particular songs, while he was talking about them. It was a pretty powerful experience. Though it's kind of coincidental, this is the one TH record I own (okay, cd) and I wasn't crazy about it. But I feel like I have a much fuller appreciation for it now.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eric Cartier

    I love this record a lot (random lyrics, mostly from "Cities" and "Life During Wartime", pop up in my mind as often as any and all Beastie Boys rhymes), but Lethem *loves* this record. His analysis is thorough and revealing, and the writing is tight. I listened to each song as I finished each chapter and considered his take on it. Because it all went down in 24 hours (the 33 1/3 series consists of brief pocket books), I'll have to revisit my marginalia to grasp what I thought, but I know I love this record a lot (random lyrics, mostly from "Cities" and "Life During Wartime", pop up in my mind as often as any and all Beastie Boys rhymes), but Lethem *loves* this record. His analysis is thorough and revealing, and the writing is tight. I listened to each song as I finished each chapter and considered his take on it. Because it all went down in 24 hours (the 33 1/3 series consists of brief pocket books), I'll have to revisit my marginalia to grasp what I thought, but I know Lethem's work contributed to my fuller understanding of the composition, recording, and reception of the songs that make up "Fear of Music". All praise Talking Heads!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tripp

    33 1/3 books often disappoint. This one is one of the best books about music I have read in years. Sure, I am a fan of Lethem and of postmodern writing. That might explain the difference in views. I found myself going back and forth between the book and the album, with each listen and read enriching the next experience. If you are after the production history and personal history, this one is not for you. If you want a personal (and erudite) view of a classic record, this is the book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    This starts promisingly, reminding me why I was always so interested in this album: its creepy radio ads. And it interested me that Lethem was determined to base his response to the album on his early reactions to it and his current reflections on it--no research. But as soon as I got a copy and began listening again, I found that nothing Lethem thought or theorized or thrilled in about the record was as interesting as listening to the record itself. Get a copy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Spiller

    I made it a quarter of the way through and gave up. I loved "Motherless Brooklyn" and "Gun with Occasional Music." Lethem's indulgent, discursive take on the Talking Heads "Fear of Music" confirms the old Onion headline, "Music History Written by the Losers."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Betty

    As close to a comprehensive line by line, note by note analysis as a fan could hope for, I think. Lethem attempts to poetically transcribe the 1979 Talking Heads album moment for moment, incorporating other musical and cultural references as they occur to him. I'm building a playlist that incorporates his references. It really must be listened to while being read simultaneously. No other way to enjoy it. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0RB... Lethem lacks a real class consciousness, I think, As close to a comprehensive line by line, note by note analysis as a fan could hope for, I think. Lethem attempts to poetically transcribe the 1979 Talking Heads album moment for moment, incorporating other musical and cultural references as they occur to him. I'm building a playlist that incorporates his references. It really must be listened to while being read simultaneously. No other way to enjoy it. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0RB... Lethem lacks a real class consciousness, I think, which shows mostly where his essays devolve into mushy platitudes (maybe 20-25% of the time). However, he does manage to bring in concepts like "Late Capitalism" and "the bourgeois" and "liberation", and I strongly believe Byrne's work stands up to close examination through a Marxist lens. Byrne advocates an anarchic, creative, communal experience in opposition to the consumerist homogenization wrought by capitalism: this is consistent throughout his career. Fear of Music functions as a rock opera articulating a kind of stumbling toward creative revolution, and Lethem's Fear of Music is that opera's libretto.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nowhere Girl

    There is some good analysis here, a few insights that are worth putting in a book. But my god. The writing. This author is unbearable. Not only is his analysis way to autobiographical, it is terribly, terribly written. The prose is painful and undercuts any point he may have. Whatever emotion he was trying to convey is lost in some of the worst writing I've had to sit through. And while there are some good insights, there are also a lot of bad ones, delivered in the most annoying way possible. There is some good analysis here, a few insights that are worth putting in a book. But my god. The writing. This author is unbearable. Not only is his analysis way to autobiographical, it is terribly, terribly written. The prose is painful and undercuts any point he may have. Whatever emotion he was trying to convey is lost in some of the worst writing I've had to sit through. And while there are some good insights, there are also a lot of bad ones, delivered in the most annoying way possible. Every once in a whole I'd find myself nodding along to some statement, only for my goodwill to be stretched and torn by another abomination of a sentence. I hate this book. But in the end, my appreciation for the album has somewhat increased by reading it, and so I can't write it off entirely. And it does get easier suffering through the author's style the further along you get, once you know what you're in for. Try and find a page of the book to scan. If you like the style (it's distinct enough to imagine many would), read the book. If you don't, you'll just have to ask yourself how much you really need to know about fear of music.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dylan

    Some interesting bits and a theoretically promising format of song-by-song analysis interspersed with different interpretations of the album overall. Unfortunately often awkwardly anecdotal with an odd contrast between the author bombastically circling around making any good points and trying to be relatable. Just align your expectations going in - this book is not an attempt at a grounded and clear discussion of the album, but more of a personal account of what the album meant to the author as Some interesting bits and a theoretically promising format of song-by-song analysis interspersed with different interpretations of the album overall. Unfortunately often awkwardly anecdotal with an odd contrast between the author bombastically circling around making any good points and trying to be relatable. Just align your expectations going in - this book is not an attempt at a grounded and clear discussion of the album, but more of a personal account of what the album meant to the author as a child and a very loose meditation on concepts possibly related to the music with some context and history occasionally thrown in.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    A deviation for me, as I have not read this type of book before. Only a couple of months ago I read Lethem's wonderful Motherless Brooklyn , and found out soon after that he was a fellow Talking Heads fan. This book is an exploration into their third album. He starts by explaining the effect it had on him as a 15 year old in 1979, I wasn't far ahead of him, at 18, and can identify with much of what he writes. Whereas his dissection is almost always interesting, its still better to listen to A deviation for me, as I have not read this type of book before. Only a couple of months ago I read Lethem's wonderful Motherless Brooklyn , and found out soon after that he was a fellow Talking Heads fan. This book is an exploration into their third album. He starts by explaining the effect it had on him as a 15 year old in 1979, I wasn't far ahead of him, at 18, and can identify with much of what he writes. Whereas his dissection is almost always interesting, its still better to listen to the album..

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    There was a whole lot of purple prose and word salad for a long while in this book. The first half more or less was a whole lot of words without saying much at all, and it was kinda all over the place. But, despite some unfortunate shade thrown at Electric Guitar, the second half was really interesting as he began incorporating more history into his essays on each song. I also really enjoyed the mini-chapters between each song asking “is Fear of Music a ______ album?” all of which were pretty There was a whole lot of purple prose and word salad for a long while in this book. The first half more or less was a whole lot of words without saying much at all, and it was kinda all over the place. But, despite some unfortunate shade thrown at Electric Guitar, the second half was really interesting as he began incorporating more history into his essays on each song. I also really enjoyed the mini-chapters between each song asking “is Fear of Music a ______ album?” all of which were pretty good questions!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    As much as I love Lethem's novels, I was a little wary of how he'd handle a book for this series. Turns out I needn't have done, as his approach was the kind of thoughtful approach that made me a fan of this series in the first place. While I'm not sure I followed every path of thought he took, his writing did help me to crack a bit further into the shell of a band I've struggled with loving for a long time.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mattia Ravasi

    Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3LCW... Illuminating and puzzling in roughly equal measures, the puzzling parts are themselves stimulating and frustrating in roughly equal measures. It's still a brilliant take on a beautifully enigmatic record, and an exciting read for fans of Lethem or Talking Heads (and an obvious must read if you like both).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christian

    I’m a casual Talking Heads fan, and Fear of Music is a bit dancier than what I usually like. But this amazing book dissects each song through a maze of memoir and metaphor, while still paying close attention to the actual songs and musicians. The geeky metaphors don’t hurt either. Wonderful.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    Lethem being Lethem and nerding the fuck out over his most important Talking Heads record. Your mileage will vary depending on, well, how you feel about any of that. But if it's your kind of thing, you'll dig it for sure.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    More of a True Stories if you know what I mean

  29. 4 out of 5

    pianogal

    I enjoyed this one. It was interesting to get someone else's take on this album. it's not my favorite Talking Heads, but I like a couple songs on it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vanyo666

    Too personal for my taste, even though it is quite informative about the making of the album. Lethem has a tendency to write about himself all the time and what the album and the times meant for him.

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