More Songs About Buildings and Food is the seminal second album by Talking Heads, released in 1978. It marked their first of three collaborations with producer Brian Eno, previously a fan of the band; Eno would later collaborate on solo projects with David Byrne. While critical darlings from their CBGB's days, the album was considered a significant step up from their already well-received debut, Talking Heads: 77, and is generally agreed to be the point where the band started to come into their own as musicians.
The album was also their commercial breakthrough with their cover of Al Green's "Take Me to the River" being their first Top 40 hit. The album itself peaked at no. 29 on Billboard's album chart, a vast improvement over 77's chart performance. It was certified gold (sales of over 500,000 copies) in 1983, also the band's first gold or platinum certification going by release ordernote . More Songs About Buildings and Food was ranked at #383 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Two singles supported the album: "Take Me to the River" and "The Good Thing", the latter of which was released exclusively in the Netherlands. "The Girls Want to Be With the Girls" was also given a promotional release in Italy.
- "Thank You for Sending Me an Angel" (2:11)
- "With Our Love" (3:30)
- "The Good Thing" (3:03)
- "Warning Sign" (3:55)
- "The Girls Want to Be With the Girls" (2:37)
- "Found a Job" (5:00)
- "Artists Only" (3:34)
- "I'm Not in Love" (4:33)
- "Stay Hungry" (2:39)
- "Take Me to the River"note (5:00)
- "The Big Country" (5:30)
I will trope, will trope with understanding:
- All There in the Manual: The liner notes explain the photomosaic made out of Polaroids on the front cover and the false-color satellite image of the U.S. on the back cover.
- Anti-Love Song:
- As you might guess, "I'm Not In Love":Because we don't need love
There'll come a day when we won't need love
I believe that we don't need love
- "With Our Love" also takes more of a clinical look at relationships.
- As you might guess, "I'm Not In Love":
- Cover Version: "Take Me to the River," originally by Al Green.
- Creator Backlash: Invoked in-song: the painter of "Artists Only" defensively insists that they don't have to prove that they are creative.
- Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover is made up of 529 Polaroids taken of various close-ups of the band members against a red backdrop, arranged into a grid that is equal parts neat and disjointed. While it's not obvious even on the LP release, the total number of Polaroids used in the photomosaic make up a life-size image of the band. A similar design trick would appear on the 1992 retrospective compilation Sand in the Vaseline (specifically for the second disc's cover art), but with an electric guitar (and consequently a much smaller number of Polaroids). The similarly elaborate back cover, meanwhile, is taken from a satellite image of the United States, mapping vegetation, rocks, soil, towns, roads, and bodies of water in ridiculously precise detail.
- Epic Instrumental Opener: "Warning Sign" has an instrumental intro that lasts for about a third of the song (1:15).
- Face on the Cover: The band is presented in a fragmentary portrait made up of hundreds of Polaroids.
- Fading into the Next Song: "Artists Only" very subtly bleeds into "I'm Not In Love." Same with "The Good Thing" → "Warning Sign."
- Flyover Country: Small town America is presented this way in the awesomely snotty "The Big Country."
- Immediate Self-Contradiction: A Mondegreen would render the second verse of "Artists Only" this:Pretty soon now, I will be betternote
Pretty soon now, will be a quitter
- In the Style of...: "Found a Job" was influenced by Philip Glass, with its repeating patterns. They would explore this more in-depth in their subsequent Eno albums, especially Remain in Light.
- Job Song: "Found a Job", as the name implies. Though it's much less about mundane work and more about a married couple who run an independent TV show production studio.
- Also "The Good Thing," a song about work and what people do. Whether or not it is optimistic or pessimistic is up to the listener.
- Lampshade Hanging: The title references the reputation for second albums being slapdash affairs.
- Longest Song Goes Last: While not sprawling in length, closing track "The Big Country" out-spans every other track on the album, at 5:30. "Take Me to the River," the penultimate track, is the second-longest song, and "Found a Job," only slightly shorter, closes side one.
- Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast: Despite the title, "The Girls Want to Be With the Girls" is not about lesbianism, but how girls like to get into "abstract analysis" and making plans, and how boys don't understand this. Nonetheless, this hasn't stopped the LGBT community from interpreting this as a pro-LGBT song.
- New Sound Album: Brian Eno took over production for this album. Fitting for something produced by Eno, a noted pioneer of ambient music, the sound of this album is more atmospheric and less pop-oriented compared to Talking Heads' debut. There are also noticeable stylistic similarities with David Bowie's "Heroes", particularly when comparing their faster tracks. Fittingly, More Songs was recorded during the interim between "Heroes" and Lodger, both of which featured heavy involvement from Eno.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Thank You for Sending Me an Angel," "Found a Job," "Artists Only," and "The Big Country."
- Non-Indicative Name: More Songs About Buildings and Food has no songs that are all about buildings or food, focusing instead on love, work, and anxiety. However, "The Big Country," if you stretch a point, is about buildings, but the only mention of food is an offhanded one in the same song.
- Overcrank: Jerry Harrison had trouble getting the slide guitar in "The Big Country" right, so the tape was slowed down to put it a whole step lower. The band would play the song in a lower key during live performances to make things easier for Harrison.
- Pep-Talk Song: "The Good Thing":Try to compare what I am presenting.
You will meet with much frustration.
Try to find ... similar situation.
You will always find the same solution.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Byrne wrote the lyrics to "Found a Job" after hearing his parents fight about what to watch on TV.
- Record Producer: Brian Eno. He also produced the two subsequent albums, Fear of Music and Remain in Light, and collaborated with David Byrne on some of his own projects.
- Rule of Three: Each line in the "chorus" of "Stay Hungry" is repeated three times.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Warning Sign" shows alienation from self:Warning sign of things to come
It happened before, it will happen again
Hear my voice, move my hair
I move it around a lot but I don't care.
- Self-Deprecation: In addition to lampshading the Sophomore Slump trope, the album title lightly jabs at the band's own penchant for writing songs about incredibly mundane subjects that most other musicians wouldn't touch.
- Sequel Song: "The Girls Want to Be With the Girls" is one to "Tentative Decisions" from Talking Heads: 77, similarly exploring the Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast trope.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic, a Big Name Fan of the band, once provided a shout-out to the album title by recording a song called "More Songs About Television And Food", lampshading his own tendency to write parody songs about these subjects.
- The slide guitar part in "The Big Country" was inspired by Roxy Music's "Prairie Rose" from Country Life; the song's title is also taken from a line in "Prairie Rose". Producer Brian Eno was a member of Roxy Music in their early years, and still kept up with the work they put out after he left.
- The drum intro to "Warning Sign" is similar to The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows".
- Textless Album Cover
- True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-Universe— the narrator of "Artists Only" says that all their pictures are confused.