1998, Music

Mark Hollis (1998)

Given how world-changing the final Talk Talk albums were, I guess we could be forgiven that Holli’s solo debut (and only record to this point) would somehow also be world-changing. I think there’s a natural desire for us to believe that artistic innovators will always be innovative, and always to the degree that they were when they were younger.

But that’s not really true. Sure, there are exceptions who continue to push the boundaries well into their middle and old ages, but they are few and far between. Most artists, like most people, settle into something after a while. It’s natural that someone continue to make music in their middle age that sounds similar to the radical music they made in their (relative) youth, rather than keep finding new things, even if this natural tendency bumps against our desires to see constant innovation and “progress” in art and the artist.

This is all a way of me saying that I shouldn’t have been initially disappointed with this album from Hollis, even though it sounds very much like the latter Talk Talk records, with more fully formed songs. I don’t know why I was expecting something totally different. And I don’t know why I thought it might be some crazy post rock thing; just because Talk Talk invented post rock (or rather, created the world in which post rock was possible) does not mean that Hollis has kept up with a genre he basically had nothing to do with (given that it came after those records).

Ahem, the music:

Hollis’ songs are sparse and usually slow, as you would expect from listening to Talk Talk. But I would say that I feel like the focus is more on the song itself – as there are actual songs – than the mood around the song or the freewheeling approach that sometimes characterized his late band. Though this record is reminiscent in sound to late Talk Talk, it also sounds more planned, more deliberate, more considered, more mapped out.

And so, instead of something innovative, we are left with something that is still relatively unique – who else made music like this in 1998? – but that is quite pleasing rewarding if you’re willing to give it the time. (No surprise there, this takes a while to grow on you.)

Hollis remains one of the unique voices of his era.


Read my reviews of albums from 1998 or read my reviews of Talk Talk’s albums.

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