Talk Normal – Sunshine (Joyful Noise)
By Scott Creney
Now this right here is pretty damn great. We’re talking great enough to almost make me fall in love with Brooklyn all over again. Any borough that can produce something like this can’t be all bad, right?
A band name born out of parental admonishment, Talk Normal is two young women who sound like they’re having the time of their life. This is not to suggest the album is fun. There are no giggles, no smugness, no complacency, no coyness to be found on Sunshine. Talk Normal sound like an entire world is at stake. And they play like their music might have an effect on the outcome.
The production is like neon light reflecting off concrete. The voices are immersed in the music, like the singers have mouths filled with sand, like they’re talking in their sleep during a horrific nightmare. The only optimistic thing about Sunshine aside from the title (assuming it’s sincere) is the confidence behind the music — you get the feeling Talk Normal is making exactly the kind of music they want to, that every note is meant to hit you right in the throat.
Like everything these days, people are totally misunderstanding Talk Normal. Yes it’s No Wave, but only in the most reductive sense — guitars being abused, sometimes in unusual tunings. But it’s a take on No Wave that is more Laurie Anderson that Lydia Lunch, more Mary Margaret O’Hara than Mars. Or to put it another way, it’s better than No Wave.
Hell, ‘Shot This Time’ could almost be The Birthday Party, except it’s better than that. ‘Hot Water Burns’ could almost be Yoko Ono, except it’s… I can’t bring myself to say it. Let’s just say that Talk Normal is its own thing. There’s echoes of the past, but it only could have been made in the present. Sunshine is good enough, and possibly great enough, to suggest they can hold their heads high in any room they walk to.
Ultimately, it’s too human to be No Wave. You can hear the urge to obliterate and destroy, but that’s overpowered by the desire to communicate. There’s a yearning for connection at the heart of this music that suggests Talk Normal place barriers between themselves and the listener just to heighten the drama, amplify the tension, when they finally leap across the gap. Talk Normal bridge chasms, and it’s exciting as hell.
After a handful of listens, as the album makes its shift from chaos into clarity, Sunshine starts to feel different from most of the music clogging my ears right now. I’ve been listening for two weeks now, and I’m starting to think it might be a classic.
The last song on the album is called ‘Hurricane’, a song with a regional timeliness that is almost terrifying. It sent chills up my spine even before New York got turned into a disaster. Hearing it after the hurricane, I am glad to live in the 21st Century. Five hundred years ago Talk Normal would have been burned as witches for this act of prophecy. What a powerful piece of music. What a great album. Go listen. There’s a world at stake.