The one and only time I saw Talk Talk perform was in 1984, as a warm-up for the Psychedelic Furs. We did not know at the time that Mark Hollis and his band had already left behind their affection for synth-pop, that they were about to write a brand new rock and roll chapter with a short string of three astonishingly beautiful records. What we did know – it was unmistakable even then – that this was no ordinary new wave band.
We learned today that frontman Mark Hollis has passed at just 64. This is an enormous loss, one I’m afraid will go largely unnoticed in pop music circles.
Hollis left the business (save for a couple of guest-spot contributions) in 2008, telling one reporter: “Maybe others are capable of doing it, but I can’t go on tour and be a good dad at the same time.” It’s the kind of thing everyone says when they leave a job; few actually mean it. It is a testament to the kind of person Hollis was that we believed him without a doubt.
The Colour of Spring landed in 1986, marking a new season for Talk Talk. More acoustic and organic than the two albums that preceded it, the LP still sounds exceptionally fresh. “Life’s What You Make It” is the best-known track. Its opener “Happiness Is Easy” is similarly bright and optimistic.
In retrospect, it is the album’s spacious, brooding “Chameleon Day” that best signalled what was to come. The moment it transitions into “Time It’s Time” is one of the great understated moments in modern rock history. If it hasn’t struck you before, go back and listen. More than 22 years after adding the album to my collection, that section continues to stop me in my tracks.
Talk Talk’s final two discs – Laughing Stock and Spirit of Eden – are more commonly held up as precursors to what we’ve come to know as post-rock. They’ve been celebrated, as they should be. But The Colour of Spring deserves to be seen in a similar light.
We’ve not received news yet on the cause of Hollis’ death. Whether by natural causes or not, it is untimely. He deserved a return to full-time recording and performing, and so did his admirers.