Talk Talk - Spirit of Eden (1988), 6/10

The massive potential and progression in form of Spirit of Eden make it a frustratingly lackluster album experience. The sonic variety and instrumental complexity combined with an entirely new configuration and songwriting methodology help the album take part in creating a new genre, yet the results are surprisingly ineffective considering the album exists as a rare artifact in the form of a realized experimental statement. The two opening tracks in “The Rainbow” and “Eden” are outstanding for their blend of the band’s existing rock sound with the jazz-infused, spatial song structures emerging from the project’s conceptualization. The introduction is strong, hosting a powerful combination of harmonica refrains, Hollis delivering clearly emotionally driven vocals accompanied by equally charged piano workings. You can feel the emotion pouring from almost every member of the group. The strength in palpable energy can be felt beyond simply experimentation with sound and instrumentation in these first two tracks in a way that unfortunately does not persist for all six tracks. Still, “Eden” continues this trend of energetic performances, containing a satisfying build culminating with piercing guitar phrases before playing with sustained mood and haunting melodies all elevated by masterful execution. After these two compositions, however, the band diverts too far into its already realized sound and fails to conjure these same emotional states going forward. “Desire” is simply too transparent to be moving. It feels as empty as its space portrays and is so clearly the weak side of the first half of the record that it is a jarring change in pace. As an extension and representation of the second half of the record, “Inheritance” hosts some truly inspired instances of sound crafting, especially from its strings, but this fails to elevate an otherwise overly dreamy and melodramatic soundscape. There can indeed be too much of a good thing when spread across forty-minutes of dramaturgy. The final two tracks are again unique but fail to inspire repeated listens for a lack of memorability despite their detail. The compositional methods used here are simply too forgettable in majority to measure up to the band’s more impactful album experiences despite the record’s clearly innovative step forward into ambient experimentation.