At a glance, Talk Talk could be filed away in the crowded and messy cabinet of 1980s new romantic pop music, but this would be unfairly dismissive. The band began in these waters, of course, but by the late 1980s and early ‘90s, they had grown into something unique and breathtaking thanks to Mark Hollis’ meticulous and relentless creativity.
The release of The Colour of Spring in 1986 was a key turning point in the band’s development. The album has a more complex composition with increased texture and varying sound densities across the tracks. Among the punchier hits on the album were some slower, more ambient songs, namely ‘Chameleon Day’ and ‘April 5th’. It was these more considered and scenic compositions that Hollis appeared to be listing towards when looking to build upon this newfound post-rock sound in the band’s fifth album, Spirit of Eden.
While Spirit of Eden was not half as commercially successful as The Colour of Spring but was no less important, with many regarding it as Talk Talk’s finest album. When talking to the BBC in the early-1990s, Hollis described the album as more along the lines of the music they would “ideally” be making. But in the same interview, Hollis discussed the band’s most recent album, 1991’s Laughing Stock in the most favourable light.
The late frontman explained that “every album, we’ve come out and we’ve thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is definitely better than the last,’ because if we didn’t think that, we would still be in there making it.” Hollis continued to explain how the album was created from long hours in the studio, where the band would play extended excursions of free improvisation with select session musicians. Later, they reflected on the material they had and would then meticulously shepherd the best parts into the final album. It was for this reason that the album took three years to surface, following Spirit of Eden.
Hollis reflected that when choosing who to work with, “feeling was always above technique” – while talent was important, the group always felt a need for a deeper connection of understanding and friendship. This allowed them the chemistry to produce an album that Hollis hoped would be as honest as Bob Dylan’s 1970 album, New Morning. He revealed that the band were listening to the album a lot at the time of recording and that it had been a huge influence on Laughing Stock. As Hollis put it: “You can’t get much more honest than [New Morning by Bob Dylan]”.