CrossEyed and Painless – Talking Heads from Remain in Light

Crosseyed_and_painless_west_germany_vinylThe second song from their critically acclaimed fourth album is probably overshadowed by the more popular Once In a Lifetime, which is a great song in its own right.  But CrossEyed and Painless is my second favorite song from this album and stands on its own as deserving of a five star rating from me.

This song didn’t chart on the U.S. singles charts, but did reach number 20 on the U.S. dance charts which is the highest .  Like several other songs from this album, there are definite danceable elements to this song: cowbells, a funky baseline, conga drums.  These all coalesce into a beat that should get you moving.  But there’s more to the song than that.

The middle of the song has an instrumental breakdown with guitar riffs sweeping in and out over the beat that shows the band wasn’t entirely over its post-punk roots.  And then towards the end of the song, Byrne has a mini-“rap” which was apparently influenced by Kurtis Blow’s The Breaks though I think it’s closer to Debbie Harry’s Rapture “rap” (which came out a year later).

That “rap” also has some interesting lines given the world we live in today.  Byrne burns through a list of observations about facts.  It starts with what, at least prior to the 2016 election, we’d consider a universal truth:  “facts are simple and facts are straight”.  But after that our narrator has some other thoughts on facts: “Facts are lazy and facts are late/Facts all come with points of view/Facts don’t do what I want them to do/Facts just twist the truth around/Facts are living turned inside out”.

Byrne, in this period of his writing lyrics was known to take a stream of consciousness approach and the rest of this song bears this out though there’s at least a surface-level theme of alienation in his verses.  But, those last lines, particularly the last three lines I copied above, seem prescient to the times we live in now.  Or maybe, things weren’t really that different almost forty years ago.

Here’s a link to the original music video for the song:

There’s also a good live version as the closing number on the great concert film, Stop Making Sense, that you can also find on Youtube!

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