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Quietly magisterial is one of many phrases one might use to describe the music of Mark Hollis, the recently deceased singer and chief composer of the seminal 1980s and early ’90s band Talk Talk. It’s certainly an adequate elevator pitch for a band that was so much more with a significantly smaller output than its market competitors.
Whereas other bands of the era, initially traveling under the New Romantic umbrella, were mostly synthesizer swoons and moon/June/spoon warbling about whatever topic would set the stage for MTV videos, Talk Talk set their sights higher. So high, in fact, one might assume they were literally knocking on heaven’s door.
Act - Irony - Mentioning - God - Magnum
How else to describe a musical act that abjured irony when mentioning God, and went so far as recording their magnum opus in an actual church? That they did it so well explains why so many curators of rock music history still position Talk Talk and Hollis’ only solo album above efforts by their so-called peers 25 years after the group disbanded and 20 years since its singer hung up his spurs.
Not that there wasn’t heady competition––bands like Ultravox! (before and after founder John Foxx inaugurated an impressive solo career), Echo & the Bunnymen, Icicle Works, Kate Bush, and Japan spring to mind as well as Bryan Ferry’s solo albums during the same period, but Talk Talk eventually proved itself a musical tour de force in a league all its own. Then nothing but silence and one terrific solo album. For the past two decades, fans and critics alike have yearned for new output, but nada.
Hollis - Illness - Hopes - Music - Legacy
Now, Hollis has died after a short illness and all hopes for new music are dashed. Yet his musical legacy is as strong, if not stronger, than when he was actively recording. This was not an artist cut down in...
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