Talk Talk: “It’s My Life” (It’s My Life, 1984)

For some reason, one of the pop stations around here has been playing the hell out of No Doubt’s 2003 cover of Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life” lately. At least I think it’s the No Doubt cover—I’ve never been able to hear it that clearly, but the several times I’ve noticed it in stores and other places, it’s sounded like their version, and I don’t know of a new one that would be playing.

Someone pop savvier than I might have an explanation. All I know is that it drove me to listen to It’s My Life, the full album, for the first time in a while today. Talk Talk’s modern reputation is mostly built on its extraordinarily otherworldy late work (Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock), but before Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene created those singularly weird works, Talk Talk made some really fantastic synthpop. 

I don’t think there’s as much true distance between the band’s early and late output as it seems at first glance. Hollis’ powerful voice and disinclination toward diction are certainly a strong link between the two, but it goes a little beyond that. For one, across all their records, there’s a very consistent sense of space, that there’s an empty part that the song is built around. It helps even small moments sound huge.

"It’s My Life" still sounds amazing int eh hands of its original creators today, and that cover, which is extremely faithful to the original, still sounds pretty good too. In the context of modern pop programming, it also stands out, which is maybe why I’ve noticed it as much as I have while everything else glides past me. The chord progression here is really different from anything else I’ve heard lately, and that open feel, which is so written into the song that it carries into the cover even with very different production, is also pretty opposite to the packed-to-the-gills-and-in-the-red maximalism of Dr. Luke-era pop. 

So what’s the deal? Has this No Doubt version been in heavy rotation everywhere for some reason, or just here?