The untimely passing of Talk Talk mastermind Mark Hollis this week has sent many fans back to re-examine his masterpieces. Many Talk Talk fans opt for the group’s final two records, the spacious and experimental Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock; records that helped to pioneer post-rock. While both of those records are excellent, I’ve always had a soft spot for the record that preceded the leap into the unknown, 1986’s The Colour of Spring.
The Colour of Spring is a pop album, mostly consisting of songs with simple structures and catchy choruses. But Talk Talk had started to shake off the synth-pop tag that they started recording under, instead mixing the bright vibrant pop production style of the mid 1980s with organic sounds. They utilise organs and woodwinds, and their drums are recorded dry and un-processed. The group’s unofficial fourth member Tim Friese-Green was a key player, helping with production and instrumentation.
The best known song from The Colour Of Spring is ‘Life’s What You Make It’, a song driven by Hollis playing the bass line on piano. He’s backed by Lee Harris’ pounding drums, a warm organ, and flashes of searing guitar. Bass player Paul Webb, who’s made music on his own as Rustin’ Man, is relegated to backing vocals, although he has some terrific bass lines elsewhere on the record.
There was such a plethora of great material that ‘Pictures of Bernadette’ was relegated to the b-side of the third single from The Colour of Spring, ‘Give It Up’. But it’s a great song, showcasing the blend of pop smarts and textural innovation from Talk Talk in this era. The song’s driven by Webb’s bass line, verse melody is supported by some elegant piano, while the guitar solo is distorted, with a surprising pause in the middle of the six-string onslaught. But it’s also a catchy pop song with a huge chorus.
You can find ‘Pictures of Bernadette’, along with a clutch of other great Talk Talk out-takes, on the compilation Asides Besides. It’s a frustrating collection as it’s mostly comprised of inessential dance mixes and synth-pop era tracks, but if you’re a fan you need to hear the astounding tracks at the end of the second disc, also including ‘John Cope’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’.
Thanks for the music Mr Hollis.