All-Time Albums: #29


TALK TALK The Colour Of Spring

Happiness Is Easy 6:37
2 I Don’t Believe In You 5:01 (UK single, #96)
Life’s What You Make It 4:28 (UK single, #16)
April 5th 5:49
5 Living In Another World 6:57 (UK single, #48)
6 Give It Up 5:15 (UK single, #59)
7 Chameleon Day 3:16
8 Time It’s Time 8:11


Emerging in the early 1980s, Talk Talk were (wrongly) viewed as just another synthpop combo with their breakthrough hits Today and the eponymous Talk Talk. More melancholy than most of their peers even then, it took their third album to place Mark Hollis’ aching vocals and anguished lyrics in truly sympathetic surroundings.

There were signposts to the densely layered, more organic arrangements on the second Talk Talk album from 1984, “It’s My Life”; Such A Shame, in particular, built from a lengthy, ambient intro before talking flight. This time around, the synths were replaced by hammond organs, mellotrons, variophons and pianos. Drum machines gave way to the real thing, and a host of other instruments including a dobro and a harp were utilised. The Colour Of Spring was actually way ahead of its time, coming almost 7 years before Paul Weller’s Wild Wood brought the rustic folk/rock into fashion.

Fuelled by the Top 20 success of lead single Life’s What You Make It (a rare return to the upper echelons for the band, who were becoming more popular overseas), the album entered the UK charts at #8 amid glowing reviews from all sections of the press. None of the follow-up singles cracked the Top 40, despite EMI’s best efforts, but The Colour Of Spring became one of those albums – like The Blue Nile’s debut LP – whose influence and standing among fellow musicians went far beyond its commercial achievements.

In February 1986, this would have been one of the most “grown-up” records I’d ever bought, although it was still quite mainstream in terms of being on EMI and containing a hit single. The opening strains of Happiness Is Easy, however, made it clear this wasn’t a pop album and I loved the expansive feel, the space within the music. Some of the quieter pieces, like April 5th and Chameleon Day, didn’t really become favourites until I upgraded my copy to a CD in the late ’90s.

The Colour Of Spring feels like the middle album in a trilogy that started with It’s My Life and took the ideas and ambition to its logical conclusion on the cult classic Spirit Of Eden, which dispensed with tedious constraints such as choruses or recognisable melodies. After this LP, Mark Hollis went searching for the ultimate expression of pure artistry and uncontrived performance, never to return.

He was horrified by the reception accorded 1990’s Best Of collection Natural History and EMI’s attempts to recoup their losses from Spirit Of Eden, the discomfort reaching its peak when the band were bizarrely nominated for Best British Group at the 1991 Brits to a backdrop of clips from 1984. EMI then continued to exploit the back catalogue with all sorts of remixes and re-issues, raising Hollis’ ire even further.

There was one final Talk Talk album in 1991 on the jazz label Verve, and a solo set in 1998, but neither made any lasting impression beyond the most loyal followers.


    • Thanks Lee!

      I’d have the much-lauded Spirit Of Eden in my Top 100 as well now. Always loved it, but found a new level of appreciation for it in the past few months.


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