Mark Hollis – 1955-2019 by Killian Laher
Terrible news that Mark Hollis, of Talk Talk has died. For many, a name from the distant past. I first became aware of him through 1984’s It’s My Life, a fairly poppy song, featuring Hollis’ booming, strident vocals.
A couple of years later, Life’s What You Make It sounded to me like thinking man’s pop, with a searing guitar motif. Decent stuff, yes, but nothing that encouraged a deep-dive.
Until some years later I heard Spirit of Eden. It was unlike anything I’d heard before, for a start the opening track The Rainbow – Eden – Desire was 23 minutes long. It started slowly, creeping out of the speakers with barely audible instrumentation for two minutes or so before a plucked electric guitar arrives. It was well into The Rainbow before Hollis intoned “ooh yeah, the world’s turned upside down”, and as a metaphor for comparing this to anything I’d previously heard from Talk Talk, this seemed apt.
The album felt like one, long, fully realised piece, though the stand out track is arguably I Believe In You whose chilly synths sound very wintry as Hollis chanted “spirit”.
Laughing Stock, which followed was more stripped back, music being used sparingly, and vaguely spiritual lyrics (“lifted up” from New Grass”)
Hollis’ self-titled solo album was even more sparse than previously, almost Satie-like piano in parts (The Colour of Spring).
With lyrics that were almost impressionistic (“left no life no more” – Inside Looking Out).
The three albums mentioned above are close to spiritual music in my opinion, and quite unlike much else. After this, Mark Hollis retired from music and looked after his family. It appears he suffered with illness and passed away, a sad loss of a real talent.