Tom Tom Club

  • Tom Tom Club
  • Tom Tom Club (Sire) 1980 
  • Close to the Bone (Sire) 1983 
  • Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom (UK Fontana) 1988  (Sire/Reprise) 1989 
  • Dark Sneak Love Action (Sire/Reprise) 1992 
  • The Good the Bad and the Funky (Rykodisc) 2000 

Formed as a lighthearted family side project to Talking Heads by the band’s rhythm section — bassist Tina Weymouth and her husband, drummer Chris Frantz — the beat-happening Tom Tom Club got off to a great start with the debut album, which contains two irresistibly infectious dance tracks, “Wordy Rappinghood” and “Genius of Love.” Weymouth and her three sisters’ airy vocals sound delightfully innocent over steady but unthreatening rhythm; guitarist Adrian Belew and Tyrone Downie contribute to the club grooves.

Evidently delighted with the results, the same basic cast reconvened two years later and made the similar Close to the Bone, which continues in the same whimsical and sensitive vein (e.g., “Pleasure of Love”).

Two of the four Weymouth sisters dropped out after Close to the Bone, leaving a less distinctive vocal signature. Beware the British version of Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom; the band obviously did, replacing four of its ten songs for the domestic release. The new tracks, all during the first half, build up a serious power surge without sacrificing danceability. (One of these, “I Confess,” is a total overhaul of “Mighty Teardrop” from the British album.) So if you’re denied the chance to hear Frantz declaim Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me,” you still get the drummer’s audacious “Challenge of the Love Warriors” — heavy breathing looped with percussion — and all the Talking Heads plus Lou Reed performing the latter’s “Femme Fatale.” The track-switching had no effect on Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom‘s US success (minimal), but considerably improved an album that, like its predecessors, is as much fun for as deep as you care to listen. (The US CD adds one bonus track.)

With the finalization of the Heads’ career at the end of the decade, the Tom Tom Club ceased to be an alternate musical outlet for Chris and Tina. Configured as a quartet with guitarist Mark Roule and keyboardist Bruce Martin, the group became the couple’s primary creative endeavor on Dark Sneak Love Action. If there was any resulting tension about the undertaking, it’s nowhere audible on this thoroughly delightful and diverse multi-cultural exposition on easygoing, sexy pop rhythmotics. Sung by Weymouth with assists from Kirsty MacColl and others, the new wave whispering of “Dark Sneak Love Action,” the novelty pep of “As the Disco Ball Turns,” the reggaefied “Who Wants an Ugly Girl?” and a gorgeous Bananarama-like cover of Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing” are wonderful, sensual charmers.

[Scott Isler / Ira Robbins]