Little Creatures, released in 1985, is the sixth album by Talking Heads. Their first album after the massively acclaimed Speaking in Tongues tour and associated concert film, this one eschews the blend of Post-Punk and afrobeat that Remain in Light and Speaking in Tongues previously established in favor of a more stripped-back blend of Alternative Rock and Country Music. Consequently, there were fewer guest musicians compared to the band's previous two albums, with most of the songs played by the core group, though percussionist Steve Scales (who played on Speaking in Tongues) returned for this album. Saturday Night Live saxophonist Lenny Pickett also appeared here.
The resulting album was the band's biggest-selling: while it charted considerably lower than previous releases, peaking at just No. 20 on the Billboard 200, the album pushed over two million copies in the United States alone (allowing it to be certified double-platinum by the RIAA in 1994) and topped the New Zealand Albums chart. The album would also be certified platinum in New Zealand and gold in the United Kingdom and Germany.
True to David Byrne's intention only to play live when he felt he had something new to say rather than just promoting a new album as explained on the "self-interview" promoting Stop Making Sense, this was the first Talking Heads album not to have a supporting tour, and there would be none for the remainder of their career. Barring the occasional live performance, Byrne would not hold another major concert tour until the tour to promote Uh-Oh, his first solo album issued after Talking Heads' official breakup, in 1992.
As Remain in Light heralded the arrival of World Music influences in popular music in the '80s, this album, with its folk, country and Americana influences would signal a turn toward more "organic," "rootsy" textures in popular music in the second half of the decade alongside Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms the same year. This change in public preference would ultimately serve as a contributing factor to the mainstream emergence of Alternative Rock at the end of the decade and the start of the next.
Little Creatures was also the first regular studio album released under the band's deal with EMI outside of North America (though not the first release of any kind with that distinction; the first EMI-released Talking Heads product was the Stop Making Sense live album in 1984). EMI would continue to be the band's main international distributor all the way until the label's dissolution in 2012, after which the rights would move to Parlophone Records, EMI's European successor.
The album produced three singles: "The Lady Don't Mind", "Road to Nowhere", and "And She Was".
- "And She Was" (3:36)
- "Give Me Back My Name" (3:20)
- "Creatures of Love" (4:12)
- "The Lady Don't Mind" (4:03)
- "Perfect World" (4:26)
- "Stay Up Late" (3:51)
- "Walk It Down" (4:42)
- "Television Man" (6:10)
- "Road to Nowhere" (4:19)
Bonus track on the original international CD and cassette releases:
- "The Lady Don't Mind (Extended Mix)" (6:51)
From the sleep of reason, a trope is born:
- Album Title Drop: The phrase "little creatures" appears multiple times throughout "Creatures of Love".
- Animated Music Video: The videos for "And She Was" and "Road to Nowhere" make heavy use of stop-motion animation techniques.
- Atlas Pose: David Byrne strikes one on the front cover... in his briefs.
- Audience Participation Song: Byrne turned "Road to Nowhere" into one during his American Utopia tour, with him and the other performers marching throughout the audience in the second half of the song and encouraging the audience members to sing along. A version of this is depicted in the eponymous 2020 Concert Film, taken from the 2019 Broadway residency.
- Babies Make Everything Better: "Creatures of Love" is a song dedicated to the joys of conception.
- Call-Back: "Road to Nowhere" lyrically recalls the phrase "I'll take you there; I'll take you there" from "Pull Up the Roots", albeit now rendered as "take you there; take you there".
- Color Motifs: Blue appears quite prominently on the front and back covers for the album and its associated singles, a stark contrast to frontman David Byrne's typical association with red.
- Conveyor Belt Video: "And She Was"
- Country Music: Little Creatures doesn't outright dive headfirst into the genre, but influences of it are apparent, particularly in the heavy use of steel guitar.
- Design Student's Orgasm: The cover art features a beautifully elaborate mural by outsider artist Howard Finster, who had previously collaborated with R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe on the cover art for their album Reckoning (by sheer coincidence, Little Creatures would release on the exact same day as Fables of the Reconstruction, the follow-up to Reckoning).
- Epic Rocking: "Television Man" clocks in at 6:10. The Extended Mix of "The Lady Don't Mind", included on international CD and cassette releases, clocks in at just under seven minutes.
- Face on the Cover: Likenesses of all four band members appear on the cover painting.
- Intercourse with You: "Creatures of Love" is an unusual case in that the sex is for the purpose of conceiving a child rather than for physical pleasure. Though that's not to say it doesn't outright ignore that element of the process either.Well I've seen sex, and I think it's alright!
- Lighter and Softer: The undercurrents of anxiety and paranoia that had been permeating the band's output since Fear of Music are done away with here, and the overall tone of the album is more similar to Talking Heads: 77 and More Songs About Buildings and Food.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "Road to Nowhere" kicks off with the sound of an a-Capella choir; David Byrne admitted that this was a last-minute decision made to add some variety to the otherwise repetitive song.Well we know where we're goin'
But we don't know where we've been
And we know what we're knowin'
But we can't say what we've seen
And we're not little children,
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Road to Nowhere", an upbeat ode to the inevitability of death and the ultimate futility of all human achievement in the face of the apocalypse; it's probably the cheeriest nihilist anthem ever penned.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The band returns to this approach with their subject matter after having spent 1979-1983 delving in more abstract topics. Among other examples, the album features songs about conception, child-rearing, names, checking out pretty women, and watching television.
- Mushroom Samba: "And She Was" is about a high school friend of David Byrne's who would take acid trips by the Yoo-Hoo drink factory and describe them to him. In a 1992 interview with Q magazine, Byrne stated that "somehow that image seemed fitting, the junk food factory and this young girl tripping her brains out gazing at the sky ... I think it gives the impression of a spiritual or emotional experience, instantaneous and unprovoked. The sublime can come out of the ridiculous."
- New Sound Album: The band shifts from their early 80's blend of Post-Punk and Afrobeat towards a mix of Alternative Rock and Country Music, with noticeable pop trimmings.
- Radio Song: "Television Man" is more or less the television equivalent of one, being about, well, watching television.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The frequent themes of parenthood and domestic life were influenced by bandmates and Creator Couple Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth becoming parents in 1982, with the upbringing of their son putting the thought of children on David Byrne's mind. Byrne, incidentally, would welcome his sole child into the world four years after this album's release.
- Rearrange the Song: The funky clavinet riff heard on "Walk It Down" is based on the Speaking In Tongues outtake "Popsicle", which itself was later released on the Sand in the Vaseline compilation in 1992.
- Regional Bonus: The original EMI CD and cassette releases of the album outside the United States and Canada includes "The Lady Don't Mind (Extended Mix)" as a bonus track after "Road to Nowhere".
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Played with. The band are depicted on the back cover wearing some pretty outlandishly-patterned outfits that make them look more like sofas in an old person's house, but if one were to excise the pattering, the outfits wouldn't actually look half-bad.
- Shout-Out: "Stay Up Late" quotes The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" in the line "I know you wanna leave me."
- Special Guest:
- Surreal Music Video: All of the ones associated with this album are pretty out there, as is fitting for Talking Heads, but the panning cutout animation landscape that makes up the "And She Was" video certainly takes the cake.
- You Are Number 6: The "dehumanization" aspect of this trope is alluded to in "Walk It Down", which opens with the phrase "I am just a number."