Talking Heads

Talkin' Hardcore Pussy-Slobberin' Death's Head Satan Drag Racer Blues

Talking Heads:77
More Songs About Buildings and Food
Fear of Music 
Remain in Light
The Name of the Band is Talking Heads
Speaking in Tongues
Stop Making Sense
Little Creatures
True Stories

The Lineup Card (1974-1991)

David Byrne (guitar, vocals)

Tina Weymouth (bass, vocals) also of Tom Tom Club and the Heads

Chris Frantz (drums) also of Tom Tom Club and the Heads

Jerry Harrison (guitar, keyboards, vocals) also of the Modern Lovers and the Heads


The bane of tailors and news anchors the world-wide, New York City's Talking Heads represented most people's exposure to an American musical underground which existed outside of hardcore punk rock.  Though they spent their early days dodging beer bottles opening up for the Ramones at CBGB's, the never really had enough punk cred to follow the wave of that movement as it crashed momentarily against the rocks of late-70's complacency. In fact, they were probably more correctly seen as a continuation of the work of weirdo-experimental 70's artists like Brian Eno, David Bowie, and Robert Fripp, (and were in fact taken under the of Brian Eno for a spell. His 'Kings Lead Hat' off 1977's Before and After Science being one big paeon to the new band).  Probably due to this help, plus the fact that the Heads spoke to an entire generation of fellow geeks too freaked out to attend punk shows, the band became remarkably successful in the early 80's - somehow becoming (with Blondie) one of the few of the O.G. New Yawk punk rock outfits to break into the chart scene in a huge way. This fact no doubt angered Johnny Ramone to no end. I can see the vein bulging in his forehead even now.

In fact, upon their introduction with the '77 album, the band could be seen as absolutely unique for American rock music - short, beaty, angularly clean pop songs of 3-4 minutes in length about, well, just about anything but the same, boring old subjects. Needless to say, they were a band of absolute dorks (thus continuing the tradition of geekwads in rock, beginning with Buddy Holly and continuing on through the Zombies, the Modern Lovers, Kraftwerk, and onto Devo, R.E.M., and whomever's on the cover of Vibe this week). They didn't yell, they didn't piss on their amplifiers, and resembled clerks at the local library more than S&M street urchins from the cyber future. When you consider that most people at this time were still trying to figure out the hidden thematics contained within their Frampton Comes Alive record, it's not difficult to guess that there was a slight amount of backlash against the Heads (and, similarly, Devo, XTC, and most other people in the early synth-pop crowd) and their fans, because, you know....NERRRRDDDSSSS!!!! People love to pick on those pesky dorks, because how else are you supposed to get your lunch money? Your average Ted Nugent fan yanked boogers out of his friend's nose larger than David Byrne, two of them looked like girls, and one of them actually was!  Besides...what else should you do with a band with short hair that wears Sears short-sleeved dress shirts, like some Allstate insurance adjuster except beat the ever loving shit out of them while screaming Scorpions songs at the tops of your lungs? A question for the ages, no doubt pondered by the millions of former heavy metal lunkheads while waiting for rasslin' to come back on da tee-vee after the ad break. Even today, some rock fans have a hard-to-describe loathing for bands like the Heads, who are seen as somehow betraying the tough-guy adolescent hornball drug-addict credo of rock and roll music.  Besides, aren't people who look like David Byrne supposed to listen to synthesizer music or modern classical or something?

What most 'real' rock listeners didn't get is that the Heads were exactly in the rock and roll spirit, far more than the bastardized corporate slickness machine that the mid-70's music industry had become.  The Heads caused people to question the length, the structure, the lyrics, and the sound of rock music.  While punk rock had more of a violent, obviously rebellious appeal, for the most part it really was just the same old garage rock bash-em-out thing people'd been doing since the early Fifties, just sped up and delivered in a dog dish with a sneer and a what-have-you. Any maroon that plugs a guitar into an amplifier and turns it up until his nose leaks spinal fluid is part of this same tradition. The Heads, though, they belonged to something else - they were different but weren't overly weird or inaccessible.  They didn't play cacophonous noise or sound like the Tattooine Cantina Band playing John Coltrane, they wrote understandable lyrics, and most of their songs had not only a clearly defined pop structure, also had such things as riffs, bridges, and danceable beats.  Perhaps that's what bothered the denim jacket crowd (including CBGB colleague Johnny Ramone, a member of the greaser brigade if there ever was one, who thought the Heads were a bunch of deplorable sissies) the most - dorks might get the good grades and good jobs, but until that point no one much had listened to what they said. The traditionalist's reaction to the Talking Heads phenomenon was sort of like Detroit's reaction to the success of the Volkswagen Beetle - at first they wondered how anyone could be so stupid as to make something that looked like that, then watched in boggled amazement as the thing becomes popular, then quake in fear when they realize that this may be the end of the REO Speedwagon as we know it. For a minute there, it looked like the dorks may have actually pulled off another Volkswagen, and in their newfound self-confidence might rise up and massacre anyone with rough hands or forearms larger than a broomhandle. No one wants a dork uprising, not just because of the violence and the whiny screaming, but because no one wants future generations to look like that, you know?

Of course, it didn't happen that way. The 'new wave' sound was co-opted by Top 40 radio in the early 80's by pin-up models like Sting and Simon LeBon, and the dorks went back to reading Star Trek novels and playing all-night sessions of Leisure Suit Larry on their Apple //e's. As for the Talking Heads, after they started working with Dork Chieftain Brian Eno as of their second album, they slowly ditched their unique 'punk' aesthetic and morphed from a four-man no-frills jerky pop machine to a 10-plus member world beat electronic funk band featuring a bunch of guys who used to be in Parliament. Their quest for simplification had been turned completely upside-down into a bizarre quest for the most complex sound they could muster, and the band became a play-toy for gimmick addicts Eno and Byrne's preferred musical theory of the day.  For awhile there they even toured with a dude from King Crimson! That's about as hardcore as a box of Snuggle dryer sheets! See how punk these guys were in their non-punkness? They continued to keep the critics (mostly) in their pockets, even as they were stuffing them full of all the money they were making off of chart hits like 'Burning Down the House' or, well...I guess that's it. But they sold a bunch of pretty decent, unique albums! Almost as many as .38 Special! And that band's name starts with a punctuation mark! Boy, them early 80's were a fine time to listen to the radio, Lucille!

Anyway, the ol' career trajectory began to nose-dive again following the band's huge 1983 album Speaking in Tongues and the associated live film/album Stop Making Sense, by which time Eno had left and gone to make more albums that sound like field recordings of industrial clothes dryers. 1985's Little Creatures stripped all of the textural stuff back off again, returning the band to a four-piece sound that didn't exactly impress fans. Things continued to slide with '86's True Stories and '89's Naked, by which time the Heads were seen as has-beens by all but the most faithful fans.  They then took an inordinate amount of time to officially break up, indicating they couldn't even agree on how to do that. Following the Heads, Byrne has sporadically released solo albums I've never heard, and somehow become completely obsessed by the PowerPoint program (no kidding. As insane as it sounds, check it out.)  The other members have done what ex-sidemen usually do (unheard solo projects, session work, sitting around and brooding), and reformed as a Byrne-less trio called The Heads, releasing one album (1996's No Talking, Just Head).  Which sucked Pat Sajak. Don't buy it.

Talking Heads: 77 - Sire 1977

For one album, anyway, the Talking Heads were the living incarnation of minimalism - two guitars, bass, drums, and the odd keyboard - as if daring us to listen to 40 minutes of nothing more than good songwriting.  There sure ain't much else here to hang onto - there's no solos and not even much music for music's sake, the lyrics (though good) are obscure, nervous, and detached.  In fact, you might call the Talkin' Gheads debut album as being closer to a collection of grooves than anything else.  These guys write pop songs as glorified vamps - take a riff, incorporate a corresponding rhythm section groove (here, syncopated so closely to the riff it's sort of a rhythm section's version of Ozzy Osbourne's Black Sabbath singing style..."!'), and well, that's it. Go on to the next one. No, wait! I got it! Reggae! These guys play a sort of white, non-doobie influenced reggae music! The Police might've called themselves 'Regatta de Blanc', but it's the Talking Heads that played the whitest version of black music earlier than anyone else. 

The big pitfall here is to mistake the Heads academic detachment as lacking emotion or as being a sort of joke - I'd say they're as passionate about their music as anybody, and probably moreso than some drug-addled band of derivative longhairs who cop all their riffs from Led Zeppelin II. As their live albums attest, the Heads were an amazingly tight group that relied as much on gee-whiz guitar interplay as, say, the Stones, they just don't put it in your face. The guitars are quiet and wiry, and certainly don't explore any of the noise territory that they would on More Songs About Buildings and Food. They simply play back and forth, twiddling a bit from time to time to keep things mixed up, but create a deceptive, hypnotic mesh if concentrated on. Same thing with the watertight rhythm section grooves, which are always far more rocking than you might expect them to be.  Probably the only thing that is stuck in the listener's face is Byrne's voice, a warbly, high pitched cowl that gets pushed far beyond the limits that ability (and good taste) would seem to set. He vibratos, he hits high notes, he blathers, he sings in French - if Bryan Ferry were to have lost his left nut in some terrible accident (a tragic inseam-measuring mishap, possibly, or maybe an unfortunately timed startle by a strategically positioned and prominently bicuspid-ed Jerry Hall) and grown up a sheltered dweeb instead of a Martian sex lizard, he might sound like David Byrne. Of course, he might also have sounded like David Byron, so let's just forget I mentioned it. Byrne certainly is distinctive, and the fact that he's so self-assured adds a lot to the best songs here.  Listen to how he changes his tone from secretive to giddy to confident to reassuring on 'Don't Worry About the Government' and tell me you would rather Byrne just 'sing normal'.

My point is that, despite what sounds like an overly simple and repetitive form of songwriting actually takes far more dedication and talent to put forth than what it might seem like. Or, if you prefer, this band is tighter than Maria Sharapova's backyard trampoline, if you 'buy' my 'overpriced life insurance policy', and I think you do. It doesn't excuse the fact that some of these songs sound suspiciously similar to each other, and the entire listening experience tends to boil down to 'No Compassion', 'Psycho Killer', 'Don't Worry About the Government' and a bunch of other crap that all runs together.  In broad terms, none of these songs are bad ('Happy Day' and 'The Book I Read' both seem a bit less equal than the others, though), but they are a bit too close in feel and form to be much more than forgotten items in the clean white tiled room called Talking Heads:77. He sings about the joys of work with just a hint of regretful subtext ('Don't Worry...'), self-obsession destroying the relationships between people ('No Compassion'), the good feelings brought on by thinking of his friends ('New Feeling') and genuine elation and thankfulness at being able to break out of a depressive state ('Pull Me Up').  Sometimes Byrne's delivery makes it seem like everything he's singing could be an elaborate put-on, an ironic denunciation that trumps whatever his lyrics might be saying, but to me that doesn't seem to be the case. He seems too sincere, too open, for that to really be the case.  Plus, I think the man's viscerally-oriented enough to want to feel everything that comes his way, rather than placing it through some 'ironically cool' filter or something. His song placing him in the shoes of a psycho killer (oh-so-ironically entitled 'The Archbishop of New York', erm, I mean...'Psycho Killer') is in turns both cute and oddly effective.  How exactly someone could be scary when saying 'better run, run, run away' is something I'll never understand, but the terse, pinched way Byrne sings the 'my lips are sealed' verse really is a bit of a jolt and 'I hate people when they're not polite' sounds exactly like something some wingnut like John Wayne Gacy might say. Considering our previous rock lexicon of killer songs includes the sexily overwrought 'Midnight Rambler' and AC/DC's blockheaded-but-spooky 'Night Prowler', this is definitely a unique take on the idea.  Killer as decorum-obsessed dork. Dork as psycho killer. Scary, scary.

So '77 is a deceptively simple album, and Byrne is far more than the tone of his voice, but some of the first impressions you have are true.  Repeated listenings to this album don't really have a lot to uncover, and the invariation in tempo, structure, or texture of these songs means they end up wearing like a pair of Chinese Levis if you attempt to listen to this one too often....meaning, I like it, I respect it, but I don't pull it off the shelf very often, because I know exactly how it's going to sound to me every single time I put it on. That's the problem with minimalism: Say something once, why say it again?

Capn's Final Word: A great non-minimal minimalist album that ends up having more and less than expected at the same time. In short, no one else quite did it this way, and the Heads never did it again.

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More Songs About Buildings and Food - Deram 1968

A great album title, winking with the awareness of how the outside world probably viewed this odd fruitbasket of a band, even if the sudden self-reference kinda goes against the in-the-moment unironic spirit of the debut.  To be sure, lots of stuff here goes against the spirit of the debut. for this is the ever-more-complex second record that shows the band has pretensions far beyond simply making disarmingly sincere fat-free pop music (though they continue to do that, too.) Since the debut, they picked up producer/muse/piss porn obsessive/psychomusicologist Brian Eno as number one fan and assistant, and they've already begun to sound somewhat like him.  The Eno trademarks are all over this bitch - hear the frenetic, not always-in-tune strumming of 'Thank You for Sending Me an Angel', the echo-laden snare drum on 'Warning Sign' or all the fluttery bug noises flying around behind the frantic 'I'm Not in Love' (not the 10cc hit song) for just two examples of Enoian touches - but his 'strategies' don't yet seem to have taken over completely as they would on the next two records. In fact, a good chunk of this record (especially side one) easily resembles '77 in almost every way. Talking Heads albums always seem to have songs divided between the Special and the Ordinary (even if among the Ordinary there aren't really any bad ones), and this one tends to have songs that Sound like '77 or Sound Different. The former ('With Our Love', 'I'm Not in Love', 'He Good Thing', 'Found a Job') very nearly implode due to a vast overuse of the 'chinkity chinka' funk guitar thingamabob that we heard so much of last time, and are for the most part forgettable bits of itchiness. Even '77 never sounded as tossed off and stereotypical as 'Found a Job', which almost seems to exist just to have a 'Talking Heads' song on here. Except after one album, who the hell knows what a 'Talking Heads' song is, anyways?

If I were to answer that question, my first response would be 'Cumberland Blues'. My second would by 'White Man in Hammersmith Palais'. My third would be 'Warning Sign', which has some of the most dramatic shifts in musical emphasis I've ever heard. With the simple addition of a slightly violent guitar line and a minor chord, things go from being organized and uplifting (intro) to utterly off-putting and disconcerted (the verse), as Byrne raps about love being here today and gone tomorrow.  A song has not been as gloriously schizo since Roxy Music's 'If There Is Something' (which went from jolly C&W to apocalyptic oppression in about three seconds). The other atypical songs are also the ones that benefit the most from Eno's production (as opposed to performance) techniques.  'Artists Only' has gobs of deep, discoey atmosphere thanks to fine use of some reverb and mixing.  Similarly brilliant use of atmospherics and the board makes the cover of Al Green's 'Take Me To the River' the single most danceable song of 1979 outside of Chic's 'Good Times'.  This is the point I mark where the Talking Heads stopped sounding like a minimalist toy and started sounding like a legitimate rock band. Granted, listen close and you may realize it's still the same old players on the same old instruments, but a bit of bass presence and well-placed echo by Eno and we've suddenly become the Ohio Players. Other gooduns include 'The Girls Want to Be With the Boys', which Blur would later totally rip off for 'Boys and Girls' and the almost violently confused 'I'm Not in Love'.  'Stay Hungry' is probably the most obviously Eno-influenced track here, at least as far as that 'jungle groove' section goes.  Sounds straight off of Taking Tiger Mountain, it does. And 'The Big Country' is one of the most gorgeous, cinematic songs ever penned by modern man, and it somehow achieves that using nothing more than a legato slide guitar riff (that sounds like Peter Buck at quarter speed) and Byrne's bittersweet lyrics.  The feeling of flying over all this banal suburbia with David is inescapable - bowling alleys, supermarkets, cows farting in the meadows. Then he turns to you and gently provides a needle for your balloon - 'I wouldn't live there if you paid me to'.  He doesn't say it maliciously, it's just not for him.  Some people need fresh air and backyard barbecues,, some people need ranting loonies and alleys stacked with rat-laden trash.  Different strokes, you know? Me? I use my right hand, personally, thumb up.

The great thing about More Songs is that it's partially on both sides of the Talking Heads fence. It's still, you know...pop songs, three minutes or so in length without any bizarre, formless worldbeat twat-pocket 'compositions' like on the next few albums, but it's not just sketchy bits of spastic nervousness like the debut, either.  Some of these sound like actually hit radio songs ('Big Country', 'River' and 'Warning Sign'), even. But progress keeps on, you know...progressin', and the Heads would march right on past this moment of imperfect balance right on down the pike with their next record, Fear of Pissing Off David and Brian.

Capn's Final Word: Somewhere right in the middle it's juuuuust right.  Too bad some songs are righter than others.

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Mike     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: Agreed mostly, but the song title is "The Girls Want To Be With The Girls" and the Blur song title is "Girls and Boys."


Fear of Music - Sire 1979

Where Brian and Eno's collaboration moved from being 'hey, this guy has some good ideas' to 'why don't he and David just move in together, already?' Arguments for or against same-sex marriage (is it still gay if both guys are about as asexual as a pair of old gardening gloves?) aside, the professional relationship between David and Brian was getting a little too close for comfort as of their third record, an almost complete departure from precedent for the Blowjobs.  If before, their songs were really just vamps, repeating the same 6 bars large numbers of times, now they're goddamn samples, 2 bars or less, please.  Brian was fresh off spending far too long with Bowie in Berlin completing the Lodger album, and it seems that Fear is a bit too closely influenced by Die-vid's brand of drama-queen mechanical fetishism.  Beats have replaced licks, noise has replaced interplay, and numbing, disco-influenced repetition has become the preferred atmosphere du-jour. While only a few tracks on More Songs had that thickly echoed Enoproduction, all of the ones here do, so even a song as generically Headsian as 'Paper' has this boomy darkness about it.  In fact, despite the fact that the production makes the band sound more substantial and, indeed, 'professional', it also makes them sound more deadened and slow.  The clockwork tightness of the first album, where it seemed like they were standing around in a circle playing in absolute lockstep has been replaced by a contrived feel, as if everything on the album has been arranged, mixed, and edited to its present position via use of studio trickery and a steady hand with the tape splice razor. Not to mention all the various Enoises that find themselves all over the record, hung in random places like musical Christmas ornaments.

Thematically, well, this album ain't called Benign Ambivalence to Music, now is it? There's a certain theory floating around that you should simply put 'Fear of' in front of every album title to get the true meaning of each song, much like how you're supposed to put the words 'in bed' after everything you tell your girlfriend's parents (e.g., 'we just got finished playing a couple of hands of Canasta...IN BED!!! IN BED WITH YOUR DAUGHTER!!! INTO WHOM I WANT TO CRAM MY ELONGATED SEXUAL ORGAN!!!'), as in 'Fear of Animals', 'Fear of Drugs', except the concept wears thin when you get down to 'Fear of Memories Can't Wait' or 'Fear of Electric Guitar'. I mean, who exactly is afraid of electric guitars? Besides They Might Be Giants fans, I mean. And 'Heaven' sure doesn't sound like the guy's afraid of the place. Fear of someplace where every song they play is your favorite song? What kind of Venezuelan would be afraid of that? And are those the same kind of people who leave those waxy little tracts under my windshield wiper whenever I go downtown to have a beer?

Still, the concept works, say, three quarters of the time.  Byrne sure as hell makes animals seem scary (and they are! Can you imagine walking around in a busy Wal Mart, and having every person in there except you suddenly turn into even a benign animal, like a wildebeest or a marmot or something? That would be SCARY AS HELL!! And not just for the delicates in the lingerie department, which would all be filled with marmots. Imagine all those unpredictable, non-color-seeing quadrapeds stomping around you, and realize there's a REASON 99% of us don¬ít see any animals on a daily basis outside of small birds, random squirrels, and a few carefully chosen pets. They're sharp! They don't have senses of humor! They think you're trying to steal their food/coat/babies/woman all the time! It's kinda like being the only black guy at a Wal Mart, come to think about it.

The song 'Drugs' is nothing more than a discombobulated gob of arhythmic seething, which some people interpret as 'what its like being on drugs'. Well, bullshitty to that. Anyone who's actually used any drugs knows that, for the most part, drugs make you feel pretty much the opposite of this song. Drugs make you talk, sweat, smile a lot, and feel like if you don't dance, you'll pop into a million little pieces, each with a vacant stare and a glassy smile. Drugs are 'Brown Sugar' and 'Sex Machine', not Fear of Music.

To be sure, this is a Talking Heads album, and we all know what slippery beasties those things can be.  Just as soon as you've pigeonholed this album as the slow, depressing, ugly one, you hear a track like 'Life During Wartime', which sounds like nothing more than a 1999-era Prince funk song, or the 'Big Country'-ish 'Heaven', which might as well rename itself 'R.E.M.1988-1993' for all that band stole from it in terms of chord sequences, basslines, lyrics, and what-have-you.  These aren't 'typical' Fear of Music songs, are they? Where's the scritchy sixteenth-note guitar strumming? What about that unattractively hysterical paranoia that fuels the rest of the record? I guess the band thought the audience deserved a respite from all the 'fear' stuff all the time.

There's also a large number of faceless, uninteresting tracks (again, mostly on the first side...what's this band with putting all their filler on Side A? Don't they know that's why God made a flipside?) that ultimately serve no purpose other than to advance more of Eno's pet guitar noises and the inescapable idea that a lot of this album is made out of material that wasn't good enough to put on More Buildings, just gussied up with lots of this Eno business. The difference is this: while the first two records had stretches of both decent and better songs, Fear of Music has about the same number of good songs and a bunch of irritating or forgettable crap. Either it sounds lamely like generic 'Talking Heads' stuff, with the usual cliches (janka-janky guitar being the worst offender), or it sounds like Eno's reheated leftovers. Luckily, the good tracks are as boner as anything the band's put out so far, so the thing is far from being a waste. Still, almost everything good about it is on the hits package.

Capn's Final Word: I don't mind the concept, and I certainly don't mind when they deviate from the concept, but there sure is a lot of fishy material on this record. The blind date with far too much makeup on.

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Remain in Light - Sire 1980

The Talking Heads do world-beat electro prog funk. which was essentially what 'I Zimbra' and a few other things off Fear of Music were trying to do, except those darn kids just kept moping and whining and sticking their bottom lip out in a pouting gesture for that entire album, and the ones on Remain in Light come on more like forces of nature than unfinished experiments. Then again, on the second side they come on like mopey forces of nature.  Why is it that no one ever mentions this band's gloomy, spooky, Adventureland Disney jungle book side, the kind that got its sound via ripping off side B of Another Green World with some extra-pasty white-boy vocals put on? Not everything with this band was New Wave and scritch Fender Stratocasters, though that was certainly a big part of it. Whatever you call it, Remain in Light is something. They'd worked towards this goal ever since the beginning, and somehow was never able to progress beyond it, either. It's both the most mature and most free the band ever let itself become, but I wouldn't exactly call it loveable. It's definitely original, taking pieces from just about everything from punk to prog to rap to, I dunno, bushman virility dances, but it's still a cold, cold bitch. Frigid. Even the feel-goodsy hit single cries out as its climax 'My God, what have I done?'

You know, I call this world music, but I guess I didn't really tell you which world.  It sure doesn't sound like it comes from Papua New Guinea or Uruguay or Liberia or any of those other fun-loving places (let's face it - most of the world listens to cheap German house disco anyway, and the quicker we can accept that fact, the quicker we can stop thinking that the checkout CD rack at Starbucks is somehow a legitimate source of culture), to me it sounds like King Crimson crossed with Parliament crossed with a TR-808 stuck about 40 bpm too fast for comfort. Which, oddly, is about what it is - the band by this point had been augmented by Adrian 'Works Well with Aging, Cantankerous Guitar Heroes' Belew and at least thirty or forty people who used to play with George Clinton.  The resulting stew, when mixed with Belew's whammy-pedal grind solos, Eno's patented deadpan backing vocal chants, and the vaporous residue of the old Talking Heads sound (the wiry scratch guitar and David Byrne's ever-present voice), becomes a highly paranoid little connection of overstudied polyrhythms. A great album, but somehow repellent at the same time, as if Byrne and Eno's life in the bush of ghosts had started out with a 14-hour layover in Frankfurt Airport or something else as soul-sucking.

Unlike, say, More Songs About Buildings and Food, where at least you could count on the rhythm section to play things straight, here you can't even do that. The opening 'Born Under Punches', for instance, has at least five different rhythms happening at the same time, and the drums aren't accentuating a single one of them.  Yeah, it's impressive - impressive as hell if you listen to it through headphones and dig how all the various parts work together. As a dance/party/listen whilst cleaning the house record, it may be all a bit too hyped up to appeal to a bunch of people who just want to wiggle their hind quarters in such a way as to make members of the opposite sex tingle.  I mean, who wants to dance to something as fast as 'The Great Curve', anyway? Do aerobics to something like that and they're gonna have to pull out the big guns defribillator-wise. I'm talking Sear Die Hard Super Duty Truck Battery here. It's not that it isn't danceable (the Heads heed the Star Child and keep close tabs on the One, just like they should) it's just hardcore dance. Enough to make the Solid Gold Dancers wriggle right out of their gold lame jumpsuits, dig?

Essentially, though, this is half a bizarre disco record backed with a quarter of a mopey sub-goth record with a great single ('Once in a Lifetime) and a superlative B-side ('Crosseyed and Painless') tacked on.  'Seen and Not Seen' is the transition between the two schizoid halves - finally the tempos drop to normal human levels for the ol' dancing' fools (and the disco hand-claps spell it right out - get off your ass and jam, pasy bastards!), but now the record is lost in a dense K-hole three sizes too small. From here we're gone forever into sludgy Eno-y drum sounds and next to zero recognizable input from any Head other than David. The final two songs are definitely worth listening to, but they're also far gloomier than anything similar off the last record, which I gently sandblasted for being too slow and too down. I'll put it this way - if a Belew guitar solo isn't a good enough reason by itself to listen to a song, you can probably skip 'Listening Wind', and 'The Overload' doesn't really even have that much.

The single, though, is absolutely superlative.  'Once in a Lifetime' may have been perverted in your mind by memories of the terrible Down and Out in Beverly Hills, but let it all come back together on a clean slate in your head and you'll be thankful you did.  Again, it's hard for me to listen to this song and not hear Brian Eno's grubby porn-addicted fingers all over those background chants, but that's part of the charm. Make it into a game, even ('Silent water'...isn't that from Before and After Science? What about that distorted organ, wasn't that on Roxy Music?). But don't let it distract you much, because this is just about as clear a definition of what this band is about since 'Psycho Killer'...the changes of life as analogs to the water in the ocean and in the Earth's cracks and crevasses.  Good stuff. This is not my beautiful website! This is not my beautiful OU Sooners coffee mug!

Okay, so it is, but don't tell anyone.

Is this the most groundbreaking album of the 1980's? Or is it just a clever patchwork of things that came before it? I suppose your average Joe Bob WalMartShopper isn't going to dig something so un-rocking and un-sentimental anyway (the Heads have about as much use for sentimentality as Star Magazine has for a fact-checker), so it's up to you - is a good soup still good even though you realize most of it was made from last week's leftovers, and you know the last few bites are going to be cold and congealed? I say give up the funk and talk that elephant talk, Davie Boy.

Capn's Final Word: More an EnoCrimaDelic collaboration than a true Talking Heads album, with all the emotional resonance that implies, but musically it's something else.

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The Name of This Band is Talking Heads - Sire 1982

Good hopped-up Christ with a Pixie Stick in his Ear this is a great live album. Long unavailable on CD (I have the 2-LP set as well as the MP3's of the insanely generous 2-CD reissue, which is what I'm reviewing here) this was the Talking Heads lover's Talking Heads live album, rather than the more showy and hit-packed Stop Making Sense, which was less a live album than the soundtrack to a film where a band calling themselves the Talking Heads do some live performances. Dig it? Housewives who once heard 'Burning Down the House' on America's Top 40 bought Sense. Guys who wore vintage suspenders and hung out at used book shops looking for out-of-date electrical engineering textbooks on the cheap bought Name of This Band. And not for bad reason - this album lets the people revel in all things Heads, the band opening its scrapbook for a bit of a nostalgic look back, rather than a trip down the Hit Parade. It's a career retrospective (done intelligently! One side from a 1977 show, and one each from 1979 through 1981! More Songs fans can stick it in their radiator and snort it!), it's a great set of performances, it's every good song this band ever did! Plus, the band trumped the whole complaint that it's not a complete show from any era by releasing Stop Making Sense just two years later. Golly, these guys were conscientious! They even go to the trouble of announcing the name of every song before they play it '(The name of this song is 'New Feeling'! The name of this look I'm giving the blond in the second row is 'Suck my dick in the janitor's closet after the show!') on the first side so you don't need to risk neck injury attempting to read it off the spinning LP label.  Or you can just rest on faith that whatever it is, sooner or later the band's gonna play it, und zey vill play it vell! The Talking Heads: 77 material is played with just the same tightness and focus as on the album, but it's played with more feel, more nuance. The 'Psycho Killer' on side A is pretty much a blueprint for how to do it right - hear how those background vocals go from sleepy to deliriously over the top? Man...that's the way to emulate a psycho killer! Dynamics! And a monstrously tight rhythm section. Pictures on the album jacket lead one to believe this was recorded in someone's front room - I doubt that's the case, but the sound is so clear and intimate, it might as well be the case. Me? I'd be sitting on the puke brown armchair back and to the right of Tina Weymouth - positioned in just the right way to have a great view of her East Village honeybuns. Oh, and her fingers, so I could tell how she plays those basslines. Except it might be physically impossible to view both at the same time. Unless I'm laying down under the floor staring up between her legs, that is. Hmmm...I wonder how much that ticket cost in 1977?

What's interesting to me is how, as the years go on, that intimacy is lost as the songs become more complex and the band bloats to keep up.  The 1979 performances are essentially the same as 1977 arrangement-wise (still just the four Heads, it sounds like), but there's more fiddling about going on. They don't have the personnel available to make their Fear of Music material sound like the studio versions (i.e., fuck it up), so they just play them as Talking Heads songs, and hoopla! (hehe, George!) They sound brilliant! 'Electricity (Drugs)' goes from being a beat-less postmodern mess on Fear to a rootsy, near-bluesy groove tune with guitar tradeoffs so tasty they'd impress Keef 'n' Woody. 'Memories Can't Wait' becomes Velvet Underground-y and, in the process, gains in tension what it loses in lockstep snap. The 1979 shows also show the band fraying just a slight bit  -  songs begin to lengthen themselves slightly over their studio counterparts as they revel in their dork-disco grooves, lead lines edge dangerously close to being guitar solos.  They're not exactly Gentle Giant, maybe, but the focus gets ever so slightly lost here, just like it did on Fear of Music. But an audience keeps you honest, and the stage has an interesting way of stripping away a lot of the crap that inept producers (Eno) like to smear across your songs in an attempt to fit into some 'strategy' or another. And both of these facts collude to keep mediocre bands sounding mediocre and great live bands sounding great. And the Heads were a great live band, have no doubt.

Still, even as things get a little less taut around the middle, the choice of available flavors begins to open up, until by the second disc we're in full-fledged Mothership territory. They provide a handy reference point by including a second version of 'Psycho Killer' to kick off the second disc so you can see just how the additions of guys like Adrian Belew and Bunny Worrell to their touring party affected their sound. Made 'em fat, gimmicky, and imprecise on one hand (not to mention making Tina feel like a talentless loser because she couldn't play like Bootsy, so I've heard), but made their sound bigger and their textures one helluva a lot more fleshed out on the other.  Their hired guns stick goofy sound effects, squeals, and squelches wherever they can pack them in (while the three Heads plug gamely along), until on the Light songs, all the side nonsense pretty much takes over completely. And the songs end up sounding nearly identical to their studio versions. Again, it's impressive as hell that this many people could play this way together (I'm thinking primarily about 'Born Under Punches' and the absolutely frenetic 'Crosseyed and Painless' right now, but all the Light material works similarly), and it's definitely an accurate picture of what this band sounded like on this tour, but part of me just wants them to play like the Heads again. But, brilliantly enough, I would rather eat a collectible Star Wars Epidose III plastic drink cup than listen to two whole CD's of scritchy 1977-79 era Heads in a row. So, therefore, all the gimmicky and repetitive Belew solos sound much better than they otherwise would. Hey, there's only so many times you can hear him do that elephant thing before homicide becomes a viable alternative, you know.

Live albums like this beg the question of what a live album is supposed to be. Is it a glorified compilation? If so, this one's gotta be one the best glorified complilations out there. If this set in its extended form doesn't collect every song from the first four albums (plus a couple of rarities, including the great early single 'Love -> Building on Fire') at 28 tracks, it comes pretty frigging close to it. Is a live album supposed to show the band as it was onstage, warts and all? I sure don't hear any overdubs or other assorted studio sneakiness on this one, if that's what you mean.  In fact, I really can't figure out under what criteria this live album wouldn't be considered great. If you like the Heads at all, even just part of their output, you probably need it - if you don't like the scritchy skeletal stuff, listen to CD 2, if you don't like the bloated funktastic version, listen to CD 1. Imagine if everything were that simple, generous, and well-thought out. If it were, I'd probably just end up fucking it all up for everybody anyway.

Capn's Final Word: Who sez you can't be everything to all people? I don't know of too many people who disagree with this.

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Speaking in Tongues - Sire 1983

While the Talking Heads fans may love 'Once in a Lifetime' best (that is, unless they love 'I Zimbra' or 'Heaven' or something bizarre like that), the People have spoken, and the People like 'Burning Down the House', the first Talking Heads dance song that might actually be danced to by normal people.  Sure, it still sounds more like D-E-V-O than 'Y-M-C-A', but it's still played at a regular person-type tempo, has the emphasis on all the right beats, and has a raise-your-lip-liner-and-yell chorus hook just like people on Showtime at the Apollo like to hear. In fact, it's really a damn great song, and unlike Remain in Light it sounds like the Talking Heads are playing it, instead of them and four dozen of their closest friends.  As monumental as Remain in Light was, it was also the end of something, as if the point had been made and there was no more to be said.  Byrne and Eno extended their honeymoon together to do their cut-and-paste electronic album My Wife has a Bush Like Markie Post.  Still. it wasn't long after that that Eno was summarily let go by Byrne after he realized he didn't want to be half responsible for the Shutov Assembly ten years later (and didn't want to bust apart the Heads, who didn't have nearly the same rapport with Eno that he had enjoyed).  Jerry Harrison and the rhythm section each recorded albums of their own (Tina and Chris's being the Tom Tom Club, an intentionally stupid dance-pop project, which had a few substantial hits) As a result of all this finagling, the Heads took three years to record Speaking in Tongues, a fun, hooky, well-made, but ultimately less compelling album than anything they'd recorded since More Songs. Dropping Eno must've been a liberating, cathartic thing for a band that must've began doubting that they were still able to do it themselves, and their renewed energy fuels the Prince-style synth-funk that is the new devolution of the day.  While the Remain in Light band based its sound on mountains of overdubs layering endless polyrhythms, the sound here is much closer to Talking Heads: 77 crossed with Dirty Mind - simple, effective arrangements of simple, effective grooves (no more than one drummer, thank you very much) underpinned by lots of synthesizer.  Moreover, all of the crazy is least the scary, dark musical crazy, anyway. Four-floor beats and dooby-doo Juno squiggles aren't exactly 'Life During Wartime', are they? Byrne still blathers away like he's the same disgruntled postal worker he's always been, but he's making even  less sense now that he's essentially fronting a no-frills electro funk band rather than a psychophysiologicalworldbeatafunkasaurusrembrandtpussyhorse or whatever you'd call the style these over-read fuckers used to play.  Byrne even admits as much (the 'stop making sense' line in 'Girlfriend is Better'), but that doesn't mean these songs are meaningless or, somehow lightweight.  It's just that the focus has moved entirely from the head to the booty this time around, and you've gotta be prepared for how unserious and non-threatening this album really is. I'll tell you one thing - I doubt there were too many electro-funk albums in 1983 better than this one, and that's really saying something.

Other than that, there's not that much to talk about here once you get the main album described.  It's funny, but while the Talking Heads minus Eno are a lot more fun and hooky, they're also a lot less varied.  My comparison to 77 wasn't merely a toss-off, see (like 99% of what I say being just generalizations and random gibberish picked up from childhood summers doing nothing but watching daytime television).  That album was really just a bunch of minimalist grooves - this album's just a bunch of minimalist grooves with more synthesizer. And now that we know we've topped the Talking Heads mountain peak and are coming down the back side, it lacks that feeling of anticipation, of potential that that album had.  As smart and hip as they still were, the Heads were by no means still taking shots against the bloated rock establishment merely by being in existence. They were the rock establishment by 1983, and they were starting their coast into ineffectiveness. Who wants a nerd pop band that everyone likes, anyway?

Capn's Final Word: One hell of a neat, quirky little dance record. Almost good enough to make you forget there used to be something more than this.

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Stop Making Sense - Sire 1984

Jonathan Demme pulling an 80's version of Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz, except the Talking Heads were better than the Band (who had to invite in a bunch of guests to mask the fact that they didn't even have that many songs people remembered after 20 years in the business) and smarter than the Band (smart enough not to agree to do the kinds of on-screen interviews that made Robbie Robertson look like a self-obsessed yak rectum), and the Band had the good sense to go ahead and break up after their movie instead of dragging their rapidly cooling corpses around for another four years.  The idea for Sense (and Waltz) was simple - Rock Concert as Musical as Movie, unlike, say, Rock Concert as Movie (Woodstock, etc., etc., etc.). The cameras and stage were set up in such a way as to completely erase the audience - there's zero crowd shots, little applause, and the show unfolds in front of you in such a way as to make it appear the band is playing on a soundstage just for your pleasure. The similarities don't end there, either. Both are horrendously overhyped movies by top dollar directors who were probably just better off doing another Mafia picture (in Scorsese's place) or white-knuckle thriller (in Demme's). To me, Sense is more of an attempt to show off Demme's skills at lighting and framing a shot than to show off the Talking Heads, and that's just irritating.

We're not reviewing films here at the Bonanza, though (I think my boss would totally balk at me setting up the DVD player and big screen here in my office), we're here for albums.  And as a live album, Stop Making Sense is, in almost every way, far inferior to the two-years-older The Name of This Band is Talking Heads. Just now I was thinking you might get away with calling it the lost third disc of that set, covering 1983, but then I realized that description didn't work.  This is a soundtrack, and unless you've seen the movie, it's hard to figure out just why the hell the sound is so thin for the first few songs, for instance (Byrne plays 'Psycho Killer' solo with an acoustic guitar, just like Neil Young started his shows on the Rust Never Sleeps tour, and is slowly joined by the band until he finally switches to electric on 'Found a Job'), and those of you unfamiliar with the Tom Tom Club (the few of you there might be, I mean, Tom Tom Club is right up there with Culture Club and Gun Club when it comes to bands with the word 'club' in the name) might wonder what the fuck that bit of retarded electropop suckage before 'Girlfriend is Better' is doing on here.

Mostly, though, the problems here are systemic. The Talking Heads just aren't as good as they had been in the late 70's...they'd become an arena act just like anybody else, overrelying on synthesizers and overweight black backup singers. People didn't come to the show to hear how tightly they could play 'Found a Job', they wanted to see Byrne put on his big fucking suitjacket on 'Once in a Lifetime' and wiggle around like a jackass. The audience better be prepared to wiggle like jackasses themselves, because this performance features just short of the entire Speaking in Tongues album, and that's where this album soars or sinks like a concrete Cessna - if you can dig the rhythms one more time, or even better, haven't heard them at all...well, you might just get into it.  For suffering torture victims like me who just listened to Tongues three dozen times, it's all a bit too much pointless flippy-floppy making.  Listen, the Heads were still good live, but they were playing the hell out of the album that just came out and sold like Big Macs with extra Crack Sauce, and were shortchanging the great stuff that made up their first four records.  It was a natural thing to do, and for most people it's probably just as well - play me 'Burning Down the House' and that one about my beautiful wife and shut the hell up already.  I guess for the rest of us, we've got The Name of this Band is Talking Heads. If there wasn't, there'd be a showdown, I tell ya. Us Heads fans, we don't take no business, you understand? Which is exactly why it took them 20 years to release the damn thing on CD, I guess.

Capn's Final Word: Ever walk into a bar and just realize you aren't a member of the clientele they're used to serving? I feel like that here.

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Little Creatures - Sire 1985

Okay, for one second, let's just play a game. Imagine the four Talking Heads albums from 1977-1980 didn't exist. Just plain never got made. Byrne, Chris, and Tina worked day jobs and Jerry Harrison spent his time playing session keyboards on Haircut 100 albums or something.  Then 'round about 1984, they began playing together, and in 1985 released Little Creatures as their debut album.  A cute little pop album, with 'And She Was' and 'Road to Nowhere' as minor hits - just popular enough to give them the exposure needed to record a second album. How would history see them then? Given the bizarre state of music in the mid-80's, it's quite possible they still could've been reasonably popular, I think. At least as much as stuff like Crowded House or the Housemartins or other such random basic pop acts, anyway.  In fact, I think the fact that these albums were released not by Talking Heads the fledgling pop act, but by the former CBGB/Eno/World Beat/Movie Star giants acted largely against them in the long run.  As nice of a song as 'And She Was' is (and it is nice...snappy, hooky, melodic), it can't hope to compete with the turbocharged funk of the massive 'Burning Down the House' as a single, much less with the likes of Remain in Light or the better parts of Fear of Music.  People couldn't help but compare everything the Talking Heads were doing with what they'd put out half a decade before, and couldn't help but feel like maybe their favorite band of Noo Yawk hicks had gotten soft and lazy. Unlike the huge mass-audience splash  that Speaking in Tongues made, Little Creatures was more of a lukewarm ripple that petered out rather quickly. Evidently, the Heads were in decline, both creatively and commercially. In retrospect, they were still darned entertaining during this period, and even if Little Creatures is as slight as a Namibian supermodel, it's still made out of decent stuff - real-life guitars, bass, drums, inoffensive keyboards, decent lyrics, good singing and nice little hooks. This is also the last time they sounded like they had a coherent direction as a band, so that's gotta be worth a tumble in the barley patch, too.

If I were a more violent kinda guy, I'd rail against this kind of intentional inoffensiveness - is this what they call rock and roll? Songs about cute babies and how sex is 'okay'? That's about as titillating as Kathy Bates coated in flavored KY wearing nothing but an oversized Depends wallowing on my laundry room floor. Granted, it's not like the Heads were ever exactly the most Dionysian of rock impresarios, but this kind of thematic and musical beigism is a bit too much.  At least the last album had the funk - this album's about nothing more than gentle white suburban headbopping.  He might've said 'I wouldn't live there if you paid me', but he sure will set up shop out there in Mediocreville, won't he?

Still, directing vitriol at this album is sort of like beating up the fat, quiet kid that likes to pick flowers and draw pictures of kitty-kats on his Trapper Keeper with permanent markers - it's more than justified, but what's the sport in it? None of these are bad songs, and the only part I can even point to as being absolutely misguided is the castrated hip-hop break in 'Stay Up Late', and that's in the middle of the most charming, innocent little song on here (Byrne is so taken by the cuteness of his baby that he wants to play with him all night). All of the songs seem to have been crafted as simply as possible, to the point that it's hard to listen to a song like 'Creatures of Love' and not feel like it's a Byrnian-toss off of very marginal proportions. But again, listenable, listenable, listenable. Fine while doing the dishes, which is more than I can say for Throbbing Gristle. I mean...

Capn's Final Word: Simple and hummable, but don't let it shock you when it ends up gathering a nice fuzzy coat of dust on your shelf.

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True Stories - Sire 1986

So, apparently being the only 80's band left in the entire known universe that still played with a shred of organic, genuine dignity wasn't quite good enough for the Toking (Pot)heads, for this is where the band absolutely hops the porpoise and begins sounding like a complete effing joke. Granted, the year 1986 was to good pop music like the Black Death was to nice complexions, but really...the signs of decline had been obvious for a few years with these guys, so it was assured that sooner or later they'd put out an album that stank like last month's Chinese takeout. This is it - a cranky, synthetic album of shockingly false yuppie music calculated to appeal to people who most recently bought an album with a picture of a bald, diminuitive former prog drummer on the cover. To be sure, these songs are still performed at least three times as fast as most bad pop music, resulting in some mindless head bopping to make the minutes drip by ('Puzzling Evidence' is a good example of this kind of brainless boogie song), but while Tongues had legitimate ass-shakability in its favor, and Little Creatures was charming and genuine, this one's just idiotic, not to mention often a bit cheap.

Though it's hard to tell for sure just by listening to this album, Byrne has continued to pursue his obsession with world music rhythms. More obviously, he's also digging his grubby East Coast intellectual hands into good ol' 'Merican roots music.  True Stories was originally intended as the soundtrack to a movie about Texas, except if this music is supposed to appeal to (or somehow portray) hayseed Texans, he's got it dead fucking wrong.  Byrne tries gamely to sound sincere in his use of these new styles, but most of the time his world-beat things just fall apart in a heap of over-percussive ridicule and his roots music sounds like he read it out of a book.  Like how 'Papa Legba' makes me notice nothing but how awful its scattered, randomized Tom Tom Club syndrums are, or , and pardon me for opening some sort of a wound here, but isn't 'Hey Now' just an even more infantile version of the Gumbo classic 'Iko Iko'? The songs generate drumbeats, but they generate absolutely zero heat - the mystery inherent in beat-farmed classics like 'I Zimbra' or 'Crosseyed and Painless' is replaced by a sense of incompetence.  They attempt zydeco on 'Radio Head', (yes, that's where Thom Yorke and his non-gimpy friends got their band name) and again come out sounding like amateurs - they get the instrumentation right, but they totally destroy the feel that's necessary to get weird genres like this to sound right. Plus, David Byrne's warbly lead vocals fit this redneck music like fishnet stockings on a wildebeest.

'Wild Wild Life' is about the only truly good rocker here, and the only song I really look forward to hearing when you get right down to it, and it's pretty much only 'And She Was' with a faster tempo and some Peter Buck-y lead guitar.  Though it's pretty damn hard to imagine Byrne mixing it up with the unwashed rabble, 'People Like Us' is pretty convincing as a populist anthem (though what the fuck is up with that 'answer the telephone' line? Do rich, pretentious assholes not answer the telephone? What, do they use carrier pigeons or the Batsignal or something?). It sounds like something Neil Young might dash off while scanning the Blue Jays box scores on the morning crapper, but on this album it's a clear highlight simply because it doesn't try (and fail) to be anything more than what it is - a generic, Little Creatures-like Heads song with a steel guitar and violin on top. Much better than the crap-ass C&W attempt 'Dream Operator', which is as phony as Delay is wrong. The Young-isms continue on 'City of Dreams', which is a snooze, but a pleasant one. Not like last night when my Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito with extra Fire Sauce began to buck and sizzle in my gut like one of those model volcanos.  'Dreams' is a nice, unchallenging remake of 'The Big Country' without all those lines about not wanting to live there if you paid him.  So what happened to all that anti-mediocrity sentiment from 8 years ago, huh? You finally realize you want to have a nice tract house in the 'burbs and go for a drive in your Ford truck down at the Piggly Wiggly for some summer sausage and some has browns, or what? Dude, if you were making more sense, maybe we'd want to hear your stories in the first place.

There's an extended mix of 'Wild Wild Life' tacked onto my copy of this album, for those value-shopppers out there.  It sounds like someones beating the everloving Gertrude Stein out of the album with one of those sound-effect keychains with the rocket launcher and the ray-gun and shit.  My lands.

Capn's Final Word: The best it gets is pleasant, which was as bad as the last one got. Byrne as Everyman is one pretty funny joke, though.

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Naked - Sire 1988

Best known for being the one with the monkey on the cover. I like monkeys in principle (the primitive tool use, the fact that they're not ashamed to drop everything they're doing and screw right in front of an audience of preschool kids just to see the looks on their teachers' faces), but whenever I see them shown on television or something I gag like I just guzzled a gallon of cold Wendy's chili.  Boy, monkeys...ha ha. They resemble real-life elderly people enough that I can't laugh simply because they, you know, act like they're answering the telephone or are performing liver transplants or whatever they do.  Plus, what's with the diaper? Is that for their protection or ours? Is that to prevent the spontaneous monkey fucking? God knows what that must smell like, so that must be it.

This is also the one that elicited the universal response 'God, are those dweebs still together?' from the dumbfounded audience.  The good news here is, if Creatures and Stories sounded a bit thin and remedial to your ears, Naked tacks a bunch of complicated rhythmic layers back on everything.  The bad news is that the songs universally blow, and unless you were one of the zero people who dug Remain in Light but somehow wished it had been played by the Buena Vista Social Club, you aren't even going to like the gimmicky 'layered' effect of the songs. What it does not sound like is a Talking Heads album - a recognizable Heads-like guitar-bass-drums sound doesn't even show up until the third song, and Byrne is mixed so fucking high on everything you won't be able to give a shit, anyway. Plus, the songs all sound alike - African rhythms, whumpitty-whump.  Dude, in 1980 you weren't playing African rhythms, you were playing Martian ones, and everyone got to be involved in the fun. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone - those songs had an infinite number of layers, so much so I think I was 'thirteenth chair vibraslap', even though I was three at the time. Is Tina Weymouth even on this Naked thingy? It sounds like a David Byrne solo joint that Jerry Harrison was invited to do guest vocals on. The ideas are David's, the lyrics are his, the guitars are Johnny Marr's (really), and the whole thing is as watered down as an off-strip well drink.

The 'hit' here was '(Nothing But) Flowers' (I remember hearing it once or twice), which is bizarrely overrated as one of the best things the band ever did, but all I hear is 'City of Dreams' with a samba rhythm and some unnecessary references to 7-11. I'm unimpressed.  Same with the opening funkless funk song 'Blind', the title of which Byrne hawks up and spits out with zero subtlety about ten bazillion times, until all I can think about is that he must be yelling 'Bland' instead, and doing some performance-art thing to provoke us to violent reaction. When the band leaves its world-beat cocoon, they're even more useless - 'The Democratic Circus' and 'The Facts of Life' are bloodless, cold little bastards. Plus, at an eye-popping CD-era length of 52 minutes, you have plenty of time to wonder how much of your life was wasted listening to aging hipsters long past their peak.

Capn's Final Word: Talking Heads in name only, this is a Byrne vanity project masquerading as something I should give a shit about. At least True Stories had the good manners to look inconsequential.

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