Speaking in Tongues… And Heels

Well, here we are again it seems. After an extended hiatus I finally managed to have enough inspiration (for some reason) to write another little piece of opinion. This time, however, the difference is that it’s coming from a slightly different country.

Today I was messaged one of those ‘viral thread’ videos by a friend of mine, this one a supermontage of songs from 1997 with the brilliant caption “THESE SONGS ARE 20 YEARS OLD FEEL OLD YET?”. Unfortunately for me, almost twenty myself, I had heard all of the songs in question and highly rate a number of them. The thing that struck me the most about this two-and-a-bit minute clip was one particular song that I had heard time and time again, but strangely enough for me I had no idea the name of the song nor the artist. One quick google search later (the search, for those interested, was “hit songs of 1997”) and I found it.

‘Your Woman’ by White Town.

Now, it’s not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination, but the thing that struck me the most was the peculiar voice it takes. This song, sung by a man in the late nineties, is told from a woman’s point of view – and come to think of it, it’s a peculiarity that really doesn’t happen all too often. It’s not even man as woman, but even a direct first person woman as man narrative is highly irregular. I struggle myself to think of another good example for the same structure, and I think there’s a good reason why not.

In my eyes, at least, music is an extraordinary means of self expression, and it always has been. From a contemporary standpoint, western music has tended to be an emotional affair harkening back to orchestral composers, and as popular music evolved and became more and more widely accessible the emotional element became easier for the majority to access and subsequently find a sympathetic voice in. The more widely reciprocated the emotional context, the more people will find solace in the music. This leads somewhat to the voice found in ‘Your Woman’.

Although it cannot be denied that men have felt like the opposite sex have expressed the “I could never be your woman” sentiment, it’s not entirely the most common thought process nor is it the sort of direction a number would take. Think of how often you’ve heard a song by a male artist (or male songwriter) that complains about the way a woman has acted, or brushes it off, or does anything but directly talk about it from the woman’s point of view. It’s just what people would rather hear – that or another song to try and woo them, win them back or lament a lost love. They’re cliches that people can associate with and, not to put it simply, want to hear. People don’t usually want to hear something from the opposite point of view. Hate to say it, but people are kinda one way streets like that.

I could go on and compare this sensation to other prevalent issues today *cough anti-vaxers the fanatic religious political divides racism cough* where walking in the other’s shoes tends to be avoided, but it’s that brand of thinking that prevents something like music from discussing it in a properly thought out and sensible manner.

That and not everyone is a Marxist nowadays, sorry White Town, sorry.


Speaking in Tongues… And Heels

99 Virgins and Pussy in Heaven

If you ask me, or value my opinion at all, I’ll tell you that live theatre is going through one of the strongest resurgences of any art form. Yes, I can hear you telling me that vinyl has been *insert adverb here* successful since the hipsters emerged from their niche coffee holes, or that hard copies of books are wanted more and more by the day (because you can’t turn the pages of a tablet), but to me, that’s not as strong a resurgence.

What makes me believe (in my fairly limited yet highly opinionated manner) that live theatre is trying its hardest to be recognised as a legitimate and plentiful art form is purely down to the fact that it’s had to shake itself up. Books keep being books, even though we have kindle. Music keeps being music whether it’s digital or on vinyl. Theatre, however, seemed like it was falling into the trap of Shakespeare revival after Shakespeare butchery after Shakespeare musical. Indie films were taking all the glory of being a bit different and pushing the boundaries, but theatre, ESPECIALLY that of more alternative production houses has taken it one step further, and made it even better (here’s looking at you La Boîte)

You might have read the last thing I posted (yeah, sorry about that. Life gets int he way of things sometimes) and wondered if there was anything else Jake Connor Moss couldn’t make gratuitously real. Well, he did it to theatre as well.

Despite the name, “Is there Pussy in Heaven” is a one-man show that talks about far more than merely sex in the clouds, well, for the most part. Following a very similar trend to much of his published works, it delves into the oft taboo areas of mental health (yes guys, it does in fact exist), drugs, abuse, suicide and sex, and doesn’t hold back. The story loosely follows a main male protagonist dealing with life. No spoilers, theres a beautiful cohesive and ultimately revealing plot to the show.

As a one man show, you’d think it would be hard to define distinct characters, have a setting, a coherent plot, however Moss is just that good that nothing seemed out of place. First an foremost, the acting chops he showed were immense. He tackled various subtle and emotional characters and came out looking like Gary Oldman in each instance. He played obscenely exaggerated caricatures and made them fit without being cliched or over the top. Having written these characters and the related script himself, you’d expect him to know what he was doing, and he didn’t disappoint. The simplicity of both the costuming and the set design worked just as well to compliment the material. A hat, a few chairs, a pair of glasses and a desk was all he needed to set a scene that (bar a few references to Brisbane locales) could be inserted into virtually any western setting. Couple that with the lighting – all impressively manually worked – to prompt a scene change or change in P.O.V so succinct even Tarantino would have been impressed with the fluidity of the acting and the script, and you have a formula for solo success.

But really, the characters, the setting, the costumes and the lights were nothing compared to the pure, unadulterated piece of realism genius that was the script. I repeat a lot of what I mentioned in his Sooky Cunts book review,  that having an unapologetic and raw outlook to some usually untouchable ideas is just what we need. However the witty comedy, the make-you-cry monologues, the dirty jokes and the overarching story and plot twist were just so, so good that really, I can’t think of what more to say. The balance of comedy and drama was precise, giving you a hint of comic relief right when you needed it but not overshadowing the messages of what help really means. The anecdotes provides allow the audience to connect with a hard to grasp concept even if they can’t relate it to personal experience, and that’s something that doesn’t happen all too often. The way Moss embodies the words that he’s saying, whoever is saying them, whatever the situation, draws it back to the reality of the speech. The script has so coherently showed us that anyone can have issues. Anyone can be on the brink. Anyone can put on a mask. So don’t assume.

Yes, he’s done it again. Jake’s woo-d me with realism and freedom of expression just as I endeavour to freely express myself, no matter what. Not only that, but from both a critical and emotional opinion, works like this could very well change the dynamic and medium of modern theatre. I sincerely hope it does.

– AJ Lienert

99 Virgins and Pussy in Heaven

Cry, Baby, Cry

For those who don’t really care:

Eh, just listen to the album.

Extended Mix:

After missing out on her first set of shows, with Brisbane getting a four song free show in Queen Street Mall on a hellishly warm weekday, Melanie Martinez finally decided to stop in for a night on Tuesday (16th August). Excited for the show after ordering pre-sale tickets months ago we made our way to The Tivoli, not entirely sure what to expect from an artist with little more than an album to play for us.

Martinez has become somewhat infamous for some of her actions in the public eye – coming from a decent run on The Voice some years ago and now being a daddy-kink inspiring, photo-hating alternative pop artist with a penchant for literal splitting of hairs. It was always going to be interesting to see if her actions at a proper show, which of course she’ll make a handy dollar from, would at all correlate with what the media has told us thus far. To some extent they did.

We thought we would be okay arriving just before doors at 7pm. Turns out more children and their mothers were interested in standing in a line spanning the street length and around the next corner than they were going to Disneyland on a family vacation. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. We waited for the best part of an hour, got in and went straight to the back of the merch line. Yeah, $45 for a tour shirt might not be the best deal – but it’s better than $30 for her album you can get at JB for a tenner or a $20 poster that we got 3 of for free earlier in the year.

Strike one for Mel.

The music started eventually, after a good dozen false alarms with tweenage girls squealing every time the house music changed we finally got a bit of live music. It was the opening act, Japanese Wallpaper. They were pretty good, a nice brand of chilled out, ambient electronic pop that would have been perfect listening while doing absolutely nothing at home. Plus they’re from Melbourne, so that’s a bit of a plus.

Back to waiting, another half hour of squeals, chants for Melanie (despite the set times being more or less a surefire thing – sorry kids but you aren’t gonna change that) and a general feeling of disgust at being in the same room as so many foetuses. 20160816_212530.jpgEventually, the one we waited for finally emerged on stage. And I mean finally, there was a good 5 minutes of pointless light flashing before she emerged from the crib she probably (definitely) had backstage.

Quickly before I continue, the set design was cute and interesting – however it didn’t add anything more than something to gawk at when the curtain was first raised.

Her set was decent enough, she played through the entirety of her album in that order (due to it’s narrative structure (It’s called Cry Baby for those who want to know)) and that was it before we scurried out in order to avoid the crowds. She might have played an encore, I don’t know.

What got to me however, was I’m not even sure if there was any live music played. It was her and two ‘bandmates’ equiped with a couple of cymbals and two sample pads – it was a symphony of loops and samples, backing tracks and a lack of effort, to be frank I’m not even sure how often a live instrument was played. There were a couple of times the man on the left of stage broke out a coupe of bars of electric guitar, and sometimes it looked like he was playing keyboard (however that was conveniently blocked by some of the stage props, so I’m not sure if he even played it). It was slick and perfect – and that’s what was wrong. I don’t want to go to a live show and hear a perfect reproduction of the studio version, give it some difference. A bit of energy, a mistake due to over-excitement now and again, something to make it worth actually going to a show. There was none of that, absolutely none – and I left relatively lukewarm.

Melanie herself was okay. She only spoke a couple of words to her fans all night and spend half of the songs with her back turned or casually chatting with her band members. Didn’t seem to care an awful lot that she was playing a sold out show. Granted she has admitted to a touch of stage fright – and she has been interrupted abruptly by the audience when trying to speak to them – makes it a bit fairer. Still doesn’t excuse not facing us.

Strike two Mel.

What irritated me the most wasn’t any of that, despite my response; it was the fact that there was no separation of the crowd, the problem of the all ages gig. Melanie’s songs aren’t of a lighthearted nature – they sing of rape, sex, murder and disfunction. Drug references and blatant innuendos are coupled with cursing and hatred. I don’t care how old you are if you like the music, but bloody hell at least give those who understand the musical content something to hold onto.

If there was an all ages area and an 18+ area it would have been a better show. Full Stop. Those who wanted to be oblivious, bop along and dance terribly out of time to a song about being raped in a carpark and not know that it’s a morbid song draped in fancy embroidered lolita dresses could do that. Those who understood it, wanted to have a drink instead of paying half of your arm for a red bull and be with likeminded people who revelled in the macabre could. But no, everyone had to intermingle and listen to a song about a child being raped while surrounded by 6 year old and their mothers. Again, not exaggerating.

My partner with whom I went summed it up perfectly when they said:

“I’m glad I went to see her live. Was it worth it? Maybe. Was it worth $80? No. Would I see her again? Probably not.”

I agree, and really it wouldn’t have been any different from watching a muted video of Melanie on YouTube with the CD playing in the background. Sorry Mel, strike three. You’re out.


Cry, Baby, Cry

Let’s Get Physical


Discussing the idea that Print Journalism is a dying medium and what it means for the future of journalism.



There’s a growing idea amongst journalism professionals that print media is slowly obsoleting as a viable form[i]. This idea is not a new one, since the birth of online journalism there’s been a fear that it would spell the end of more traditional media formats. As much as this seems like a worrying trend, one need only look to a similar fear in another industry that felt the emergence of online formats had all but killed off a beloved format – the music industry and Vinyl. With this is mind, what’s to prevent a love of physical media to stay with readers and follow the same resurging trend that vinyl experienced.

vinyl(Image 1: see endnote x)

As much as it might seem a bit of a leap to compare the readership and success of print newspaper to the sales and revenue of vinyl, it’s not as wild a comparison as you’d assume. The key comparing point between the two is the fact that they are both physical means of experiencing something widely available online – as well as in a portable more accessible format. The physical element of both forms is one of the key elements, perhaps stemming from our development as children as tactual-kinaesthetic learners, where people enjoy and indulge more in a product that is readily touchable. The same goes for books, magazines, and photographs among other physical artefacts.


Looking at things as currently as we can (without paying a hefty fee), The Australian Bureau of Circulations reports the newspaper industry in Australia has been losing consumers at quite a significant rate year-on-year since 2012[ii], as well as there being a declining trend in majority of localities worldwide both in terms of ad revenue and circulation numbers, as per WAN-IFRA[iii]. This may seem worrying at first viewing, however it follows a remarkably similar trend in the sales of vinyl between 1999 and 2006 shown to us by the IFPI[iv]:

(Figure 1: See endnote iv)


Between these years we see a USD$126 Million decline in sales of vinyl, similar however much more severe than the global 13% decline in newspaper revenue over the past five years as shown to us by WAN-IFRA.


This year-by-year trend provides quite strong correlation between vinyl and print news; the good news is that since 2006, worldwide vinyl sales have increased by a factor of more that 450% – in fact the global revenue in 2012 exceeds that of 1997 by almost 10%. The managing director of the Official Chart Company in the UK, Martin Talbot, backs up this sentiment, saying to the BBC “Only five years ago this business was worth around £3m a year. This year [2014] it’s going to be worth £20m”[v].


These figures provide some comfort to those who cling on to and enjoy the traditional media formats, those who aim to become professionals in a print news industry, or both.

WAN-IFRA-Newspaper-Circs-Ad-Trends-in2013-June2014(Figure 2: See endnote iii)


The fact that there’s a growing market for print media in Asia, the Middle East and in particular Latin America also shows that the idea that the medium is dead may only be relevant to a western society. However to get a grasp of how this comparison can dictate the future of journalism in Australia, more local data needs to be analysed.


Between March of 2015 and 2016, stats provides by Roy Morgan Research show that only 3 of 33 studied print newspapers in Australia have shown a growth in readership, majority of these losing readership in a combined Weekday, Saturday and Sunday circulation[vi]. This along with the WAN-IFRA report showing significant decreases in both circulation and ad revenue, as well as the job cuts and strike of Fairfax employees, don’t provide a lot of hope for Australian print media[vii].

However again comparing it to the incremental growth of the vinyl industry in Australia provides solace that a revival could be on hand. The Australian Record Industry Association’s 2012 report on wholesale sales of music show that even in a smaller market, vinyl is growing. From the end of 2011 to the end of 2012, vinyl singles saw a 58.56% increase in quantity sales and a 46.89% increase in dollar value, while vinyl LP’s saw a 73.67% quantity growth and over doubled the dollar value of sales with a 105.21% increase[viii].


Given this is a 2012 report, it would be reasonable to assume that these figures would follow the trends of vinyl sales worldwide, increasing year-on-year to present and providing another physical market that is claiming back some of the ground the digital media had taken. Given the comparisons, it’s hard to see the death of print media in a country as large as Australia, especially given the interest growing in the Northern Territory and the success of the Financial Times, as the report above, giving the industry a steady platform to build upon.


Despite the correlations, there will always be those that take an opposing view, take a look at newspaperdeathwatch.com, run by former Editor-in-Chief of magazines run by IDG Ventures, Paul Gillin[ix]. His website is one that focuses thoroughly on the ideas that citizen journalism and online media are the obvious way forward in the industry, and with a wealth of journalism and technology experience his point is valid. He doesn’t completely ignore the trends of traditional media however, and he takes a relatively unbiased view of all things relating to the industry as a whole.


An interesting take on the pros and cons of both sides, he takes to it with elements of wit – as seen by the praise for a poignant parody video focussing on a changing media landscape:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SS7Qbvz6AVY&feature=player_embedded .


Lots of the points Gillin raise are bang on. One of the concepts that we mustn’t ignore is the idea that these forms of media can coexist without a detrimental effect to the other. Of course there’s going to be competition from online exclusive services, new age thinkers and innovators capturing the attentions of a younger demographic not raised on the delivery of a newspaper on your driveway every morning. This again however mimics the trends seen in the record industry post-vinyl. When the Compact Disc was released and became a more widely accessible means of listening to music, it reached the masses more easily but didn’t convince everyone. The same can be said about the introduction of portable media files, the likes of .mp3 and .WAV. None of these aimed (directly) to kill off any similar products already on the market, nor did they appeal to everyone. Citizen Journalism and listicle based companies didn’t aim to take the throne of the tradition print media format, but with the rapid acceptance of digital media as a legitimate and well sourced medium there was always going to be some friction between the two. But now with many of Australia’s, nay the worlds major newspapers taking to an online platform as well as their traditional print, the scope they can reach only extends. As with any audience dictated industry, each individual (or group of individuals) has his or her preferred manner of participating. If newspapers can somehow grab hold of the younger generations as successfully as the vinyl industry can, there’s no reason it can’t replicate the revival that vinyl has had (and is continuing to have) over the past decade.

The comparisons between newspaper and vinyl are more complete than assumed at first glance. Both are more traditional, physical mediums that had their alleged heyday in years gone by, and ones that have the ability to keep for an extended period of time after initial release. In the early-mid 2000s many in the recording industry thought that vinyl was a dead format, and mp3 and CD, coupled with streaming were to be the continuing way forward. Fast forward a decade and worldwide sales have eclipsed those of the late 90s and a full revival has occurred, encompassing both old and new artists. A similar thought can be presented when talking about newspapers. Many people are under the impression that the digital landscape has enveloped so much of the journalism media that in the near future traditional print journalism will become an obsolete medium. However as shown, the statistics in relation to newspaper don’t spell complete disaster, with circulation and revenue increasing in many areas in the world, and the declining trends closely mirrors those seen in the vinyl industry, and we all know how that looks now. [x]


[i] http://newspaperdeathwatch.com/ (Accessed 22 May 16)

[ii] https://mumbrella.com.au/abc-newspapers-continue-print-decline-173008 (Accessed 29 May 16)


[iii] http://www.marketingcharts.com/traditional/global-newspaper-circulation-and-advertising-trends-in-2013-43338/attachment/wan-ifra-newspaper-circs-ad-trends-in2013-june2014/). (Accessed 29 May 16)

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Global_Vinyl_Sales_Graph_In_US$.png (Accessed 31 May 16)

[v] http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30216638 (Accessed 31 May 16)

[vi] http://www.roymorgan.com/industries/media/readership/newspaper-readership (Accessed 29 May 16)

[vii] http://www.hcamag.com/hr-news/fairfax-announces-120-job-cuts-500-staff-go-on-strike-213506.aspx. (Accessed 31 May 16)

[viii] http://www.aria.com.au/documents/2012wholesalefigures.pdf (Accessed 1 June 16)

[ix] http://newspaperdeathwatch.com/about-2/, https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulgillin (Accessed 22 May 16)

[x] http://www.theartsdesk.com/sites/default/files/images/stories/NEW_MUSIC/thomas_h_green/vinyl.jpg


Word Count :1448

Let’s Get Physical

Quick-fire Reviews: RHCP and Radiohead

There’s been such a lot happening in music recently that instead of my typical overblown reviews, I’ve decided to summarise a couple of the major bits of news for you.

On Red Hot Chili Peppers’ single Dark Necessities from their upcoming 2016 album The Getaway:

It’s not really a bad song, it has the quintessential 2000s Chili Peppers’ sound to it, with some introspective lyrics and a chorus that improves every time I listen to it, however it’s nothing outstanding.

Also, nice to see people pointing out Flea’s bass line is similar to Can’t Stop.

About time, because 90% of his bass lines sound incredibly similar to each other.

On Radiohead’s Burn The Witch, Daydreaming (singles) and A Moon Shaped Pool (Album):

Single art for Burn The Witch (XL Recordings)

After the most perfect piece of marketing to send the internet into complete shock (granted, one Manchester United forward Memphis Depay used a similar strategy amongst rumours of unrest – deleting all Instagram photos of himself in club attire, as well as unfollowing all of his teammates before posting a montage of himself in the iconic red kit – filling his recent posts with an epic self portrait and quashing the rumours), Radiohead dropped the single Burn The Witch.

Burn The Witch is gloomy, it’s eerie, it’s orchestral, it’s quite magnificent. It broods in the way only Thom Yorke can make a song brood, and the choice of it as a lead single is quite a stroke or genius. It harkens back to the bands 1999/2000 works, their prime if you will, leaving people excited for the (very short) wait for the full record.

The video is also a trippy, slightly demonic Wallace and Gromit short of sorts. Just as dark though, remember the pie killer?

Daydreaming is again a wonderful, slowly moving piano ballad. Well, as much of a piano ballad as Radiohead can release without uproar. Yorke is back to his wailing best, the strange recording techniques are talking in backwards tones and the six and a bit minutes fly by.

They still got it, even if Thom is walking through dozens of doors to get there.

A Moon Shaped Pool is too expensive for me to afford right now, but I’m going to assume it’s good from what I’ve heard from it.

Sorry Folks

That’s it for today, however I’m sure there will be more in the future. At least I hope so.


Quick-fire Reviews: RHCP and Radiohead

Gutter Runts – Wait, Did I Even See It?

The other night I went to see yet another piece of art produced by Woodridge raised Jake Connor Moss, but this time it was a film. At a cinema. With a sold out theatre. On a Thursday. The first thing I have to mention is that the parking situation was abhorrent, and I ended up getting a hefty ticket for spending two hours in a loading zone. I suppose I did deserve it.

So I arrive at the New Farm Cinema complex with my partner (who downs a couple of Jack and Cokes before the show (“I want to be fucked up for a fucked up film”)) and the opening night of Captain America: Civil War decides to be at the exact same time.

Here master card, that is priceless.

So after waiting and standing and a large crowd, we walk in, sit down and start to get excited about what’s going to happen next. This was the first and only showing of the film. Ever. Exciting.

Turns out, the film was the most overly cliched, predictable and boring piece of cinema I’ve seen in a long time. From someone like Moss, I walked in expecting some sort of arthouse indie spectacular with interesting characters, perfectly smooth and sequenced editing and some sort of morally ambiguous ending that makes you reconsider what you just watched. But no, I sat there for just under an hour watching a near recreation of every ordinary romcom that I’ve seen on free-to-air television. The actors just seemed like they didn’t want to be there, the script was cringe inducing and the fact that other people in the audience were laughing, clapping or smiling made it even worse.

I don’t know what inspired someone as creative and interesting as Moss to sell out like that, maybe it’s the fact he wanted to do something easy to get a quick buck. If that’s the case, it worked.

We walked out and my partner said to me “I feel like I’ve read that story 6 times before”, which is oh too true. I know that maybe keeping things original can be a struggle, and the amount of talent it takes to craft an enjoyable piece of individual art can be staggering, but Jake has the talent – if not him then at least the last. They did a good job, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think they wanted to be in something so mainstream. So sell out.

Oh well, what can you do. Maybe I’m totally wrong, lots of people probably loved it. Each to their own.

Besides, it’s hard to remember everything after just one screening. Sometimes I ask myself if I even saw it at all.

-AJ Lienert

Gutter Runts – Wait, Did I Even See It?

Eternal Friendship of the Spotless Kind

I know this isn’t any sort of journalistic article, but I thought it fitting to post it. A poetic eulogy, of sorts, for a recently lost friend.


Today I lost a friend.
We hadn’t been friends for very long, but time doesn’t matter.
She came from up north, and the first time I saw her browny-blonde hair I fell in love. Not the sort of love where you talk, get together then split, but the sort of love that lasts a lifetime.
She was gorgeous.
I’ll never forget the look on her face whenever I made her a meal, the joy always made my day.
She was mad.
The kind of mad you discover in someone who loves the little things in life, always full of energy and forever waiting to discover new things. The best kind of mad.
She was a significant part of the reason my current partner and I are still together.
She made us realise that we did love each other, the blu-tac to our wall, the pastor to a wedding.
I don’t know what would have happened without her.
From the moment we met her we knew she was sick, but you never realise how sick someone is before they’re ripped from your reality by a cruel message.
I didn’t think she’d be gone so soon.
I’d made her lunch earlier that day.
As filled with regrets I am, as is always the case when something leaves, I’m even more filled with the most insurmountable appreciation I’ve ever felt.
I’ll never forget anything we did together.
I’m writing this just after I found out, so I would say that, but I solemnly believe it.
Where you are now, I’m sure you’ll do the exact same, you were never one to change who you were.
Goodbye best friend.
I love you.
I miss you.
I always will

Eternal Friendship of the Spotless Kind

David Byrne: Not Just Another Talking Head

Introducing: David Byrne


Media and Communication are both ideas that are considered to be largely controlled by outlets such as Radio and Television, however some of the most potent and prolific communicators are ones in areas we overlook. One such man, who has continuously pushed the boundaries of how we receive things, is Scottish/American Musician, Actor, Filmmaker and Artist David Byrne. Born in West Scotland and emigrating to America during his childhood, Byrne established himself as a pioneer of Post-Punk before reinventing how the western world viewed world music. After a moving to New York he founded the band Talking Heads with whom he was the frontman between 1977 and 1991 (Byrne, 2012). As well as a commercially and critically lauded band (Rolling Stone, 2016), Byrne has had success in visual art, film direction and writing, earning an Academy Award, a Grammy, and Golden Globe awards along with a New York Times bestseller – his talents spread across multiple communicative media (Wikipedia, 2016).


Inspiring and Influencing


David Byrne was never one to stick to the status quo, writing pop music and pandering to the largest demographic didn’t interest him. As an artistic communicator, he borrowed and integrated ideas from styles worldwide, challenging what western audiences and society expected from music as a form of communication; Byrne emphasised the communicative values of the medium. To him, sound in whatever form communicated something. This was spoken word, music to evoke an emotional response, cultural integration of abstract or otherwise unknown sounds. Through all this he did what he wanted. When he heard a piece of Latin pop, he listened. The intricacies of European and African traditional music excited him. The pantomime acts of Asia gave him food for thought, and he assimilated this information and used it to create what he wanted, regardless of what 1970s and 80s America wanted. (Byrne, 2012)

As anyone who values self-expression in communication, Byrne is an inspiration. There was no other way to him than to communicate the way he wanted to. In today’s media landscape, with monopolies on what we can say and do, this self-expression – freedom to communicate your opinion, your thoughts, your ideas – is somewhat of a lost art form. Byrne is to the concept of sound as a communicative medium as Ebert is to Film, Christgau is to Music, and Frost is to Politics; a groundbreaker (Rolling Stone, 2016). As far as inspiration goes, there’s not much further to look than an innovator in his field – and for someone who’s voice is one of a highly opinionated and critical nature, Byrne is an obvious influence.

However a poignant feature of Byrne’s work is that he never credited invention. He merely reinterpreted ideas that have been in use for many a year, and credits the sources openly (Byrne, 2012). This humility is perhaps the most integral element that provides inspiration, as he does not seem to reside on a plane higher than that of any common bystander – rather as one of them who decided he wanted to do things his way, giving reason for anyone to believe they can do the same thing. This acknowledgement of influence doesn’t just stem from music, his books and films also make mention – implicit and explicit – of his wide-ranging influences.


These facets all come together in the person Byrne presents as a professional, and this positive manipulation and willingness to step outside of the norm while keeping humble is a definitive reason for both inspiration and influence.

Media Convergence and/of the World

First off, “Media” is the plural of “Medium”, as Oxford defines as “A means by which something is communicated or expressed”- meaning yes, art is media (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2016).


Other than the obvious fact that an entire 2 sections of Byrne’s How Music Works (of which I won’t make mention, more for reason of oversaturation and complication rather than relevance) are dedicated to the trend of media convergence and the influence technology has had on communication – especially his – his rise to popularity came at an integral time in the expansion of music as a form of communication; the 1980s gave birth to the golden age of MTV and the music video format. Up until the launch of MTV in 1981, music videos were more or less a band standing on a stage, lip-synching to a backing track – not a particularly powerful means of expression. This all changed when some Radio professionals came together and decided to create a channel dedicated to music videos. This form of media convergence dates back to the early days of film, where music accompanied the motion picture to add an added layer of depth – but seldom was the video the accompaniment to the music (Tannenbaum and Marks, 2016). Having seen how oriental theatre and African natives used the visual component of a performance to enhance what was being communicated, Byrne took to this trend of videography and created complementary short films as experimental and unique as Talking Heads’ music (Byrne, 2012). The 1984 musical documentary Stop Making Sense was the outcome. Besides being one of the most highly regarded concert films ever made, it managed to touch on elements of media convergence in a way that was modern. Of course we think of media being a purely technological idea, and the technology behind the film was impressive, however the convergence of the mediums of Theatre, Music, Oral Communication and Visual Communication were the keys here. Combining these elements into one film took expert skill, because the combination of these elements was only growing at the time. As the artistic driving force behind the performance, Byrne had to readily accept that what had been viewed as normal for the past decades was no longer – at least in his mind – and challenge the norm. Again, he never took credit for the decisions he made in gratifying the new media landscape, rather embraced the trend of media convergence – film becoming more and more associated with music – and if not for his willingness to experiment and push the boundaries, Byrne wouldn’t have had the opportunity to produce the film (Staff, 2011, Byrne, 2012).


The film medium might be a stand out, but without the global cultural landscape Byrne drew upon, it would have been nothing. As technology advanced in the late 1900s, it gave rise to the beginning of mass globalisation, from west to east as had not been so available until that point. Byrne didn’t go from west to east, he took a concerted approach to discovering what the rest of the world had to offer. It comes across is almost all of his musical works, from consistent afro-beats (derived from African percussion works discovered in his travels) to theatrical elements translated from Asian traditional performance arts (prime example is the Pho inspired “Mr. Big” suit seen on Stop Making Sense) – he used the world as his palette. He took a risk and used recordings of the Qu’ran, cut, rearranged and pasted to self-recorded music on the imaginatively titled track “Qu’ran” on his and producer/friend Brian Eno’s 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (a title borrowed from a Nigerian novel). Also included and reference points for his total embrace of globalisation are an American Radio broadcaster (also some blatant Media Convergence), Lebanese singers and gospel choirs. A continued interest in worldwide music seeped through into his music, his acquisition of Latin American vinyls prompting subtle inclusions in his records, as well as continuing love for polyrhythms and other assorted tribal percussion throughout his musical career. He even beat Paul Simon’s seminal Graceland to the African idea six years prior, Talking Heads’ 1980 breakthrough record Remain in Light popularising the use of tribal music yet not gaining quite as much attention or praise (Byrne, 2012). The ease in which technology could and did breach the gaps between nations and continents (however reluctantly at the time) allowed natural innovators such as Byrne to use the globalisation of media to experiment, and in terms of a creative individual consistently using the world as an influence, it’s hard to go past him.

The Public Sphere and Fourth Estate

It’s hard to understate the impact journalism media has had on society, and that’s no exception with the society Byrne was a part of. As a performer, much of the success attributed to Byrne and his endeavors is directly related to critical reception. With Talking Heads having been labeled “one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the ‘80s” by critic  Stephen Thomas Erlewine (Thomas Erlewine, 2016) the success and longevity of the experimental work and boundary pushing music could not have been without the general praise of the (mostly print) media at the time and the concept of the fourth estate having social influence.


In terms of a public sphere, the band and Byrnes music itself wouldn’t have come if it weren’t for the uprising of the Punk subculture some years earlier. This movement, of course, is an example of the public sphere at work; clubs like the historic CBGB’s provided a public venue for the oppressed to discuss and create a culture thriving on being disenfranchised with the current state of society and government – Punk (and subsequently post-punk, in which the ‘Heads were a major player) (Byrne, 2012). While not the traditional model of the public sphere, it’s an example of a niche public sphere holding major power in creating social and political movements; perhaps more powerful than a broader sphere itself.




From the first Talking heads album he penned in the ‘70s through his illustrious art, film and writing careers and continuing to this day, David Byrne is a modern communication guru (Thomas Erlewine, 2016). Through his willingness to experiment and adapt to the changing social landscape through media convergence and globalisation, his acceptance of the public sphere created post-punk movement and continued success with thanks to the fourth estate, Byrne has utilised foundational communication theories to better himself and his role as a media professional. His continuing presence in the arts field will only add to this, and his achievements won’t be forgotten for generations to come.



Byrne, D. (2012). How Music Works (37, 42-43, 68-79). San Francisco [Calif.]: McSweeney’s.

Wikipedia. (2016). David Byrne. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Byrne [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].

Oxforddictionaries.com. (2016). medium – definition of medium in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/medium#medium__2 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].

Rolling Stone. (2016). Talking Heads – 100 Greatest Artists. [online] Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-artists-of-all-time-19691231/talking-heads-20110426 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].

Staff, N. (2011). The Golden Age of MTV — And Yes, There Was One. [online] NPR.org. Available at: http://www.npr.org/2011/11/06/141991877/the-golden-age-of-mtv-and-yes-there-was-one [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].

Tannenbaum, R. and Marks, C. (2016). I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. 1st ed. [ebook] Penguin, pp.2,3. Available at: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=zrBolXPYq40C&pg=RA1-PA1&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].

Thomas Erlewine, S. (2016). Talking Heads | Biography & History | AllMusic. [online] AllMusic. Available at: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/talking-heads-mn0000131650/biography [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].



David Byrne: Not Just Another Talking Head