'A real return to our sources, our roots': Inside the retro-funky new Tom Tom Club EP

The Tom Tom Club’s new groove-based, very 1970s six-song EP Downtown Rockers finds former Talking Head rhythmnists Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth digging back into their earliest influences.

Founded in 1981 by the husband-and-wife duo, Tom Tom Club was initially established as a side project away from the Heads — and scored an early hit with “Genius of Love” from their self-titled debut later that same year. Three decades later, however, Weymouth and Franz have only appeared once in concert with fellow Heads members David Byrne and Jerry Harrison since the group broke up in 1991 — at the foursome’s 2002 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, Tom Tom Club issued three more albums through 1992 — Close to the Bone in 1983, Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom in 1988, and Dark Sneak Love Action in ’92. They fell silent, however, after issuing 2000’s The Good, the Bad and the Funky.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Kit O'Toole selected "Genius of Love" for her list of Desert Island Disc one hit wonders, saying 'artists like Mariah Carey have sampled this, but nothing beats the original.']

To prepare for this long-awaited follow up, Weymouth tells MusicRadar.com that the group jammed for several days in the couple’s home studio.

Downtown Rockers, out today, was then mixed by Ed Stasium — who worked on Talking Heads ’77, among many other signature project. Feature tracks include a remake of “Love Tape” by the Spanish electronica group Pinker Tones.

“The record was a real return to our sources, our roots,” Weymouth told MusicRadar. “Chris had bought two incredible DVDs about the Stax story, and it was amazing to watch those guys playing live in Sweden, stuff we never saw on American television, ever. To watch Booker T & the MGs, Sam & Dave, it was a real return to realizing it all and saying, ‘Now, this is exciting!’ (Laughs.) So we were watching that before we recorded, before we jammed. Chris set these little markers: ‘Let’s do something with a beat like this,’ and ‘Let’s do something with a beat like that.’ … We weren’t trying to imitate, we were trying to be inspired by the music we were listening to.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on the Talking Heads. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: TALKING HEADS: The Talking Heads seemed to do what so few manage – start a career almost fully formed, then gradually grow without giving up their signature style. They emerged weird, polished that weirdness, and let the world catch up. You really have to put your mind back in the 1970s to imagine how different they were: There’s disco here, hard rock and heavy metal over there, and to that other side is punk. And then, right here, tucked away in this little corner, is a found-object quartet of funky art-school nerdiness. They were, really, a tremendous relief. And, even as we’ve gotten older, the Talking Heads are still making sense.

TALKING HEADS – CHRONOLOGY DVD (2012): An often fascinating look back at the short, but trailblazing career of one of rock and roll’s most unlikely success stories, as viewed through the rear view window of music video and documentary footage. But you won’t find any of the live sequences from the great Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, nor the MTV videos for songs like “Burning Down The House” here (though there is a performance of that song from the old David Letterman show). Instead,Chronology tells the Talking Heads story through the use of more rarely seen footage, that stretches from the band’s earliest days at New York punk rock clubs like CBGB, to their reunion upon the event of their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

TALKING HEADS: THE NAME OF THIS BAND IS … (1982): A definitive entry in the Talking Heads’ catalog this was somehow out of print at one point for, what, nearly two full decades? I was lucky enough to stumble upon a bootleg copy of the vinyl a while back but the sound quality was pretty rough; there was no doubt it came from a well-loved copy of the vinyl. Then, in 2004, Rhino reissued this amazing live compilation spanning the years 1977-1981 with a whole slew of bonus tracks, filling out both discs to near-capacity.

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