A Colour Of Spring: Talk Talk, Autism, And Me

My eldest son is autistic. A fairly harsh portfolio for him to have been fobbed off with, to be honest. Neurological barricades erected in the dead of night. A world without nuance, empathy, the call and follow of interaction.

It’s one of those unfortunate scenarios were the undercurrent is fashioned from a reflexive form of guilt. Guilt that his upbringing was pockmarked by the failure of his parent’s relationship. Guilt that his younger brother has his agenda unfairly skewed by the proclivities of a sibling. Guilt that my own genetic make-up is in some way culpable – the poor chap is eerily like his father. Character traits lifted wholesale. Shared around like so much open-source software.

I write this not to garner sympathy, or to satisfy some sudden and uncharacteristic urge for self-exposure; I’m sure you’ve heard that the internet is a hive of fictions, half-truths and sleights of hand – online personas cultivated by the infantry of our own personal vanities – and just because my son can’t help but take everything he comes across at face value, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend following his example. Also: this is a music blog, albeit one that neither son reads. If they did, I’m sure they would be remarking upon the needless profanity, the unnecessary density of word construction. Alas, despite best efforts, neither are Spiritualized devotees…

Kid A’s musical interests are understandably more conservative than mine; he’s currently obsessed by the power pop immediacy of Feeder, whilst I’m more a connoisseur of records recorded in West Berlin bathrooms during a foggy evening 1978. What links us both, however, are the particulars of how we approach the basic art of listening to a record. Call it a devotion to all things repeat. Not once or twice but multiple, manifold times.

It’s all to do with certain, specific tracks that don’t necessarily have too much in common with each other except for the fact they hit like a splinter of smouldering mania. It’s as if a select few records actually demand to be played on heavy repeat. Just as you hear of people who take apart circuitry – computers, cars, constructs formed from diodes and flashing LEDs – to ascertain how this something works… only to reassemble when that desperate curiosity is sated, so it is with Kid A and his father – possessing a compulsion for total audio immersion. A case of eviscerating a track, exposing the innards and the specifics of interaction between singer and percussion, bass line to how the guitar parts hang suspended. It’s music as something ritualistic, fetishistic, compulsive, but also strangely inevitable.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not something I do with every record that flickers across my consciousness. In fact it’s very few records. But there are occasions when an hour or two in intimate embrace with that particular track is the only slice of relevance.

Label this weird behaviour if you must, but Kid A understands.


Below the words: Talk Talk’s ‘Time It’s Time’. The final item on the 1986 album The Colour Of Spring. Dense, alluring, and very much the type of track experienced in the manner indicated above. The attraction here is all to do with texture; from the opening discordant piano chord onward, there’s such a delicate sense of touch, the bass track providing the heavy lifting for Mark Hollis’ enigmatic yet strangely moving vocal, for the constantly evolving mix of percussion, accordion, guitar motifs buried deep in the mix. A track that flits between major and minor, between introspection, passion and aggression with ease.

And then there’s the utter enticement of the final 2+ minutes – tribal in construction, a simple repeated phrase played on children’s recorders that reverberates with haunting composure (plus should you listen closely, it’s at this point where the bass track flares its nostrils, as if something equine). Mark Hollis doesn’t make music any longer – at least for public consumption. This record demonstrates why he still should.

Talk Talk / Time It’s Time

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4 thoughts on “A Colour Of Spring: Talk Talk, Autism, And Me

  1. Guilt is a total fucker, to be sure. But, like jealousy, it is an utterly wasted emotion. You need to wave goodbye to it. As hard as that can be. Just bear in mind it isn’t a life raft.

    As for Hollis. I just wish I had twenty grand to buy a proper system that could let me hear ‘Laughing Stock’ the way I think it should sound. Or even the way I imagine it in my head on the way to work.

    There is a book coming out entitled ‘Spirit of Talk Talk’. And an album to match it. Dozens of artists no doubt butchering their chosen Hollis composition. Sigh.

    But, the Shearwater live version of ‘The Rainbow’ does prove Hollis wrong on one point. The last two Talk Talk albums could have made it in the live arena, possibly.

    Doesn’t bear thinking about….

  2. Wonderfully expressed, as is everything here.

    Our son Owen (age 9) is the great love of our lives. And also a visitor from another planet that is very much like our own. He surprises us every day.



    I don’t mean to clutter up your blog with links, but rather to express how high the highs can be and how low the lows.

    Owen is mainstreamed now, he has everything he needs, including the love of a big extended family. Everything is good now, as good as it’s ever been.

    It’s an adventure isn’t it? Wishing you and yours all the best.

    • Thanks HR. And feel free to leave as many links as you see fit; the Oak & Acorn pieces are a fantastic read. “I look at him and I see all of my own failings” is a sentiment I’m particularly familiar with. Wonderfully written words – if anyone else happens to be stumbling upon the comments on an old blog post, I very much recommend those links represent a new transaction.

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