Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden
English band Talk Talk initially found success with a string of synthpop singles including ‘Talk Talk’ (from 1982 debut ‘The Party’s Over’), and ‘It’s My Life’ (from the 1984 album of the same name). These releases catapulted them to success in Europe and North America while drawing comparisons to New Wave artists like Duran Duran, but in a controversial move, Talk Talk began to distance themselves from this sound with the release of their third album in 1986. ‘The Colour of Spring’ proved to be their biggest UK success, selling over 100,000 copies and being certified Gold by the BPI, encouraging the band to abandon their synthpop roots entirely for their next album.
Talk Talk managed to secure a large budget from EMI for what would become ‘Spirit of Eden’, and demanded complete creative freedom for it’s conception. The band were inspired by the reaction to ‘The Colour of Spring’, which diminished the role of synthesizers in favour of guitars, pianos and organs while also valuing the role of improvisation in the recording process. The band cited classical composers such as Claude Debussy, and jazz artists like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, as key influences.
The music was created with the assistance of numerous session players who would be invited to the studio to perform without any guidance as to how the music was intended to sound. Spending over a year in the making, the resulting record was a hugely experimental and sombre affair assembled from hours of unguided rock, jazz, ambient and classical recordings, edited down to six free-flowing tracks. It lacked a radio-friendly single to garner interest (‘I Believe In You’ would be released in a remixed form against the band’s wishes), and many contemporary critics would describe it as “unmarketable”. The band also refused to tour in support of the album, citing the spontaneous nature of the recordings as impossible to recreate live.
’Spirit of Eden’ sold over 60,000 copies upon release but was deemed “commercially unsatisfactory” by EMI, who sued the band. Many contemporary publications including Rolling Stone, NME and Q panned the album upon release, but it has since been re-appraised as the band’s magnum opus; a key progenitor of the “post-rock” sub-genre and a precursor to the experimental works of Radiohead and Sigur Rós.
‘Spirit of Eden’ celebrated it’s 30th anniversary in September 2018.
EDIT: We were deeply saddened to hear that in February 2019, soon after this post was published, Talk Talk singer Mark Hollis passed away. Thanks for all the music Mark, you will be missed!