Talking Heads


Talking Heads: 77

Talking Heads - Talking Heads: 77 ©1977 Sire
1. Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town
2. New Feeling
3. Tentative Decisions
4. Happy Day
5. Who Is It ?
6. No Compassion
7. The Book I Read
8. Don't Worry About The Government
9. First Week/Last Week...Carefree
10. Psycho Killer
11. Pulled Up

Having already existed as a trio playing CBGBs in the mid 70s in New York, the Talking Heads had already generated a considerable amount of interest and attention by the time the band added Jerry Harrison as their fourth member and recorded Talking Heads: 77. Their sound was at odd ends with much of what surrounded them at the time. Their sound was deliberately minimalized, polite yet engaging with its taut, tense energy. The debut record captured that early musical vision and set the band on the path which would ultimately lead them to becoming one of the most noteworthy bands of the late 70s and most of the 80s.

While the Talking Heads were a band at the heart of things, the attention almost invariably falls upon David Byrne for his nervous, anxious vocals relaying his lyrical unease. Talking Heads: 77 is a showcase of a frontman who sounds very uncomfortable to be expressing his thoughts through a microphone and the performance is a snapshot of wavering, quivering singing, all of which somehow made the band that much more convincing. The music was simple, sharp and to the point. Unlike some of the punk bands they were lumped together with at the time, Talking Heads played polite songs that were immaculately arranged. The rhythms suggested more than basic rock structure, but the bass playing of Tina Weymouth and her drumming husband, Chris Frantz, was stripped down to simple notes to quietly underscore the chords. At the end, Byrne's sense of askew melody ultimately made the songs inherently memorable.

While remarkable, the Talking Heads' debut personally ranks as an important album but not my favorite from the band. The band did set themselves apart from essentially every other artist in existence in 1977 and that alone makes this album necessary to hear. Some may complain Talking Heads' sound was too calculated and Byrne was far too stiff, but that's all part of the charm. Talking Heads: 77 still ranks as a very important debut.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2001

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More Songs About Buildings And Food

Talking Heads - More Songs About Buildings And Food ©1978 Sire
1. Thank You For Sending Me An Angel
2. With Our Love
3. The Good Thing
4. Warning Sign
5. The Girls Want To Be With The Girls
6. Found A Job
7. Artists Only
8. I'm Not In Love
9. Stay Hungry
10. Take Me To The River
11. The Big Country

So somewhere along the way, Talking Heads found Brian Eno and that began a three album trilogy of collaboration that found the noted studio master offering a great amount of sonic wizardry, pushing the Talking Heads into new explorations of music. More Songs About Buildings and Food, the band's clumsy but amusing title for their second album, takes on the simplicity of the debut and fleshes it out with subtle arrangements and more instrumentation. Eno's ability to manipulate and create deviant effects did much to make this album a more powerful statement than the band's debut. Coupled with some exceptional songwriting from the band, the album excels in every way imaginable.

While the core sound of the debut is intact, the sound gets a much needed boost in all areas. Keyboards are used to enhance the guitar parts, the rhythms are much more solid and David Byrne's singing is considerably more confident and expressive. The songs are better structured to carry the listener's attention better, with builds and moods coming to climaxes. Moreover, the strong sound quality lessens that clinical, calculated edge of the first Talking Heads album. Finally, most of the songs here are just dandy in all respects: "Thank You For Sending Me an Angel", "Stay Hungry", "Found a Job" and the cover of Al Green's "Take Me to the River" are all outstanding and the others are quite good as well.

This album was an outstanding bit of growth for the band. Had they continued without the help of Eno's input, the band may have not ever quite received their attention nor gone on further musical explorations on later albums. If nothing else, Eno should be credited for helping the band open their eyes to possibilities and new ideas. And, at the end of the day, More Songs About Buildings and Food ranks as one of my all time favorites from this band.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2001

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Remain In Light

Talking Heads - Remain In Light ©1980 Sire
1. Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
2. Crosseyed And Painless
3. The Great Curve
4. Once In A Lifetime
5. Houses In Motion
6. Seen And Not Seen
7. Listening Wind
8. The Overload

Due to the involvement of Brian Eno as basically an adjunct fifth member and David Byrne's growing and far-reaching interest in music other than rock'n'roll, Remain in Light is a huge step removed from any of the band's early works. The album features a lot of slightly worldly rhythm influence as well as Eno-signature electronic wallpaper to better express where the band was heading. The result is a busy sounding album that takes some effort to incorporate in your brain. The focus track is obviously "Once in a Lifetime", one of the more famous Talking Heads hits. A rather existential look at success and how one gets to a pinnacle or point in one's life, it is truly a defining moment for the band. "Seen and Not Seen" investigations idol worship in a weird narrative of someone molding his face to become that of his ideal. Byrne was very profound in his lyrical insights. In songwriting, he scores big on the very aloof "Listening Wind" or the dynamic "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)".

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/1999

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Speaking In Tongues

Talking Heads - Speaking In Tongues ©1983 Sire
1. Burning Down The House
2. Making Flippy-Floppy
3. Girlfriend Is Better
4. Slippery People
5. I Get Wild/Wild Gravity
6. Swamp
7. Moon Rocks
8. Pull Up The Roots
9. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)

Having sent Brian Eno back on his merry way, Talking Heads returned in 1983 with one of their most successful albums, Speaking in Tongues. Of course, having a hit like "Burning Down the House" on the record certainly did wonders for the band. The main difference between Speaking in Tongues and its predecessor, Remain in Light, is that the rhythmic approach was a bit more like their earlier days, although the band still relied on odd synth sounds. The result is a record that offers a good mix between the early material and later experimentations. The band still utilizes a gaggle of guest musicians.

The one problem with the album is the stiffness of much of the material. David Byrne has always been a bit of a left brained chum and this album demonstrates it perfectly. If one compares "Burning Down the House" or "Slippery People" to the live versions on 1984's Stop Making Sense, you'll immediately note how much more the live representations breathe and flow. That aside, Speaking in Tongues is chock full of great songs. "Making Flippy Floppy" is quirky and engaging while "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" is a very airy, light number that ranks as one of the band's best. The album's usage of odd sound and synth effects often makes it slightly edgy and definitely weird. However, the appeal is huge and makes this album one of the pinnacles of Talking Heads' lengthy career.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/2000

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Stop Making Sense

Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense ©1984 Sire/Warner Bros
1. Psycho Killer
2. Heaven
3. Thank You For Sending Me An Angel
4. Found A Job
5. Slippery People
6. Burning Down The House
7. Life During The Wartime
8. Making Flippy Floppy
9. Swamp
10. What A Day That Was
11. This Must Be The Place (naive Melody)
12. Once In A Lifetime
13. Genuis Of Love (Tom Tom Club)
14. Girlfriend Is Better
15. Take Me To The River
16. Crosseyed And Painless

This reissued disc of the Talking Heads' great live disc Stop Making Sense does make wonder why on earth they didn't release the entire package back in 1984. Not only does the original lack a ton of the tracks that were on the film version, but this reissue simply flows much better and captures the live Talking Heads show as it should be. But since the original still was a smoking piece of work, I can safely say that Stop Making Sense 1999 is just a darned fine album. If you only ever purchase one Talking Heads album, this should be the one. (Or the two disc Sand in the Vaseline compilation, but I'm confusing the issue now.) The performance captured here of the Talking Heads and their adjunct members is top notch, adding new and invigorating reinterpretations of their back catalogue. In some cases, such as "Slippery People" or the thumping "Burning Down the House", exciting new life is breathed into the songs. Whereas there was occasionally stodginess in studio recordings, Stop Making Sense rectifies the situation quite superbly. Moreover, the setlist is one nearly any fan would choose. The only exception might be the subpar Tom Tom Club selection (that outfit was the side project of bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz), which just doesn't quite live up to the quality of the Talking Heads. But with songs like "Once in a Lifetime", "Making Flippy Floppy" and "Thank You For Sending Me An Angel", the album is an energized "best of" package that completely avoids many of the trappings of an ill-conceived live album. Stop Making Sense should be your most sensible Talking Heads purchase.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1999

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Little Creatures

Talking Heads - Little Creatures ©1985 Sire
1. And She Was
2. Give Me Back My Name
3. Creatures Of Love
4. The Lady Don't Mind
5. Perfect World
6. Stay Up Late
7. Walk It Down
8. Television Man
9. Road To Nowhere

After several years of adjunct members, highly ambitious albums incorporating a vast array of musicians and styles, Talking Heads resurfaced in 1985 with a "back-to-the-basics" approach, obstensibly designed to shrug off the supposedly pretentious elements of their music. The resulting Little Creatures is an attempt to perhaps recapture the ease and more minimalistic vibe of the early records, but to a degree the record falls flat on its face. Despite a handful of the band's biggest and most memorable hits ("And She Was", "Road to Nowhere" and "Stay Up Late" are undeniably great rock radio classics), the majority of the tracks lack the impetus, creativity and broad worldview that made previous albums so stunning. The fact is that the Talking Heads had elevated their music to a high standard and "dumbing down" an album wasn't the best approach for the band. Little Creatures often seems to be lacking development and seems as though the band chose not to flesh the songs out. Talking Heads excelled when it seemed they were challenging themselves and throwing the kitchen sink into the mix. Fact is, David Byrne has never been the best at taking an "Aw, shucks", humble-minded, simple approach to music. It is when he's overly ambitious that he seems to particulary write great music.

In the grand scheme of things, the band's mid-80s period comes across as an attempt to reign in their excessive tendencies. The result was a handful of great rock radio songs but also quite a few songs that cannot hold a candle to the music either before it or on the band's final opus, Naked.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2002

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True Stories

Talking Heads - True Stories ©1986 Sire
1. Love For Sale
2. Puzzlin' Evidence
3. Hey Now
4. Papa Legba
5. Wild Wild Life
6. Radio Head
7. Dream Operator
8. People Like Us
9. City Of Dreams

Flashback to 1986. "Wild Wild Life" was a catchy little number that completely harnessed my attention both on MTV and on the radio. It was probably with that track that I began my long time love for the Talking Heads. It was actually quite some time before I got True Stories, the album that contained "Wild Wild Life" and frankly it was probably a good thing I waited. Not to be confused with David Byrne's film from that same time period, True Stories is an album that displays the Talking Heads at both their top form and their most trite. The album starts out grandly with "Love for Sale" and the excellent rockin' gospel edge of "Puzzlin' Evidence" but afterwards the music becomes quite blah. The majority the songs on the album simply lack the passion and the tension that marks the best of the Talking Heads' material over the years. "Radio Head" sounds like it was swiped from Paul Simon's Graceland throwaway tracks and "Dream Operator" does indeed put the listener to sleep. True Stories may have been a more back to the basics throwback from their experimental days of the late 70's/early 80's, but overall it just showed their songs lacked the simple charm and chemistry of their earliest material and not the maturity of an album like 1988's Naked.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/1999

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Naked

Talking Heads - Naked ©1988 Sire
1. Blind
2. Mr. Jones
3. Totally Nude
4. Ruby Dear
5. (Nothing But) Flowers
6. The Democratic Circus
7. The Facts Of Life
8. Mommy, Daddy You And I
9. Big Daddy
10. Bill
11. Cool Water

On the last Talking Heads studio album, it seemed as though David Byrne and Co. decided to throw it all back together after a few albums of somewhat blah basic rock (ie: True Stories and Little Creatures). Reminiscient of the Eno-era Heads, the ambitious Naked turns out to be one of the best Talking Heads albums of them all and a worthy career ending piece of work. The list of guest musicians is immense on this album, with the instrumentation hinting at the "world vision" of music David Byrne would pursue in his solo career. Moreover - and more importantly - the songwriting is damn near perfect. "(Nothing But) Flowers" is a unique look at a garden of Eden sort of paradise in reverse where the protagonist of the song balefully wishes for the civilization trappings of old. In fact, the song contains my favorite David Byrne line of them all: "If this is paradise, I wish I had a lawn mower." The songs range all over the place but never get boring to any degree. While most of the early records were good for their hits and so-so on filler, Naked is strong nearly all the way through. A definite pick if you are looking for something in the Talking Heads back catalogue.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/1999

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Popular Favorites: Sand In The Vaseline

Talking Heads - Popular Favorites: Sand In The Vaseline ©1992 Sire
CD one:
1. Sugar On My Tongue
2. I Want To Live
3. Love -> Building On Fire
4. I Wish You Wouldn't Say That
5. Psycho Killer
6. Don't Worry About The Government
7. No Compassion
8. Warning Sign
9. The Big Country
10. Take Me To The River
11. Heaven
12. Memories Can't Wait
13. I Zimbra
14. Once In A Lifetime
15. Crosseyed And Painless
16. Burning Down The House
17. Swamp
18. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)
CD two:
19. Life During Wartime (Live)
20. Girlfriend Is Better (Live)
21. And She Was
22. Stay Up Late
23. Road To Nowhere
24. Wild Wild Life
25. Love For Sale
26. City Of Dreams
27. Mr. Jones
28. Blind
29. (Nothing But) Flowers
30. Sax And Violins
31. Gangster Of Love
32. Lifetime Piling Up
33. Popsicle

Easily one of the best career retrospectives ever released, Popular Favorites: Sand in the Vaseline is a dream come true for fans of the Talking Heads as it both compiles some of their best work as well as extensive liner notes featuring reflections from each band member as well as a little anecdote or thought regarding each and every song on the two album set. Moreover, the band sweetened the pot by including some rare and unreleased tracks, making this collection mandatory.

The discs are sequenced chronologically so you essentially are transported along the band's development as they grew from the minimalistic, nervous four piece band to their more ambitious world conscious later days. Every single era has been represented here, including select tracks from all of the studio albums and even from their excellent live Stop Making Sense. The amazing thing about the band is that through all their phases, experiments and tangents, their music has become rather timeless. Some of the blatant pop songs such as "Wild Wild Life" and "And She Was" are still as catchy and fun as when I first heard them as a teenager nearly fifteen years ago. Listening to both these discs, one realizes the enormous talent this band contained, regardless of what approach they took to their music. I tend to prefer their later music, especially Naked. For any fan, casual, serious or just curious, Sand in the Vaseline is simply a fantastic introduction to the band as well as the greatest hits package to satiate every hardcore fan of the Talking Heads.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2000

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