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Talk Talk – Living in Another World

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No-one could ever accuse Talk Talk of selling out for short-term gain. More than any other band of their time they appeared to be on a very specific journey, one that involved gradually eschewing the format of the three minute pop single for longer, more ruminative pieces that worked best in the context of their parent album. Of course in doing so they charted a course for commercial disaster, no doubt accompanied by shrieks of horror from EMI who, following an unpleasant court wrangle which saw the band gain their freedom, exercised their contractual right and chucked out an unauthorised but very successful Best Of.

Not that Talk Talk were ever that commercial. Despite an early brace of brilliant singles they only ever managed three top 40 hits during their heyday – and three decades on it’s kind of hard to tell why. Yes they were a bit miserable, but misery was certainly no barrier to success in the mid eighties, as both The Smiths and Depeche Mode will tell you. But at this point you really needed to be a frontperson with lots of charisma (Boy George, Holly Johnson) or possess a certain kind of anti-charisma (Morrissey, Neil Tennant) to garner any kind of lasting affection with the public. Mark Hollis kind of fell in the middle, so perhaps that’s why.

Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Here’s Talk Talk when you could still whistle them with Living in Another World.

This was stadium pop before U2 got their hands on it – urgent, invigorating and faintly menacing. Note that it’s also starting to play fast and loose with traditional pop song structure, squeezing in two (or is it three?) choruses long before Little Mix started doing it. The whole thing just keeps building and building without ever going over the top, rounding off in pleasingly rock fashion with a fantastic harmonica solo.

A glance at the top ten when this came out shows a nation enthralled by perky pop – Diana Ross perched atop the chart with Chain Reaction, while Manic Monday by the Bangles sat right behind. Horrifyingly, the theme tune from dreadful ITV drama Boon was at number six for Jim Diamond. So in this context it’s perhaps no surprise that Living in Another World failed to connect with record buyers.

Somehow I don’t think Talk Talk were particularly bothered.

 

Entered chart: 09/03/1986

Chart peak: 48

Weeks on chart: 4

Who could sing this today and have a hit? Coldplay.

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