In Memoriam Mark Hollis: On April 5th, here is Talk Talk with April 5th

One of the first, if not the first, albums I bought independently with my own hard-saved chore money was the Talk Talk compilation Natural History. It turned out this was a record company issue without the consent or approval of the band; nevertheless I was hooked by the musical journey from the fairly standard synth pop of “Today” and “Talk Talk” to the booming, lush pop epics of It’s My Life and Life’s What You Make It and beyond to the later works, which went beyond categories.

The Colour of Spring is very much a bridge album between early and mature Talk Talk. It holds up very well, without being much dated (the exception being the last track, “Time It’s Time”, rather overblown, overlong and overproduced)

One can see how the record company would have hoped to create a monster hit machine, although I suspect Hollis’ voice was not quite the thing. Songs like Life’s What You Want It and Living in Another World have a confident, swaggering stomp. The instrumentation and aspects of the arrangements link them with later, spare Talk Talk, but they are rather different beasts.

The video for It’s My Life, with its interspersion of nature documentary clips with shots of Hollis walking round a zoo, caught my imagination. Perhaps it was a bridge moment between the nature-focused interests of my childhood and the world of adolescence, when music and literature began to dominate.

With the recent death of Scott Walker, 2019 is becoming the year my quirkier musical heroes of the 1990s go to their eternal reward. Hollis left the music industry behind; it seems from his obituaries that this was not so much becoming a “recluse” as choosing an ordinary, family-focused life over the treadmill of touring and recording. In our age of narcissism this alone is a radical choice.

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