Marketed as a pretty-boy new romantic band, Essex's Talk Talk proved to be one of the most rebellious groups since The Monkees, at least in the way they eschewed popular convention. Yet another reissue of their earlier material (both 'It's My Life' from 1984 and 'The Colour Of Spring' from 1986) is testament to a drastic career switch. 'It's My Life', their second album, sees them already demonstrating their intent to break free from the sranglehold of the 'commercial success is all' mantra. In singles 'Dum Dum Girl', 'Such A Shame' and the title track they offered proof that it's possible to sell records to the masses as well as appease the critics; the latter in particular is a timeless sweeping epic, drenched in melancholy but brightened by a chorus that simply breathed life into a sterile pop market. Ignoring the disappointing filler that concludes the record ('The Last Time' and 'It's You' are embarrassingly dated), this was the first album on which the trio produced quality album tracks; both 'Renée' and 'Tomorrow Started' are powerful, lovelorn and surprisingly lengthy; they had realised by now that it didn't matter if it takes the chorus two minutes to kick in.
Two years later and 'The Colour Of Spring' saw them begin to abandon choruses altogether. Arguably their best album, it signals the shift from synth-pop to looser, jazzier, more organic arrangements. 'Life's What You Make It' was the outstanding single, bearing all the hallmarks of a classic record: a repeated, simple organ riff, howling guitar and Mark Hollis's frantic, urgent vocal. Although neither this record nor its follow-ups 'Happiness Is Easy' and 'Give It Up' dented the UK top 10 they were clearly becoming an albums band; both clocked in at over five minutes, the first featuring inspired and chilling use of a childrens' choir, the second a basic but insistent groove featuring Hollis' best Steve Winwood imopersonation. Winwood himself cropped up on the dramatic 'Living In Another World' playing the Hamond organ like a man possessed whilst a frenzied harmonica solo only adds to the impression of a group who had definitely found their musical home. By the finale of 'Time It's Time', an adult choir this time is usurped by a flute assault. As an indication of where they were to go next 'April 5th' and 'Chameleon Day' point towards a stripped down, improvised approach which would serve them well on their next two albums. The two long players included here aren't wholly representative of their career of course, but they do provide a fascinating story of their own.