Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No. 345: Stop Making Sense

Band: The Talking Heads
Album: Stop Making Sense
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: If there is a better concert film, I'd like to see it. The Talking Heads' off-kilter and strange brand of New Wave permeates the album, as it is mostly a set of the band's best hits.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Two problems. The first, of course, is the greatest hits conundrum. We've examined this a million times. The other inherent problem is this ranking is probably based on the movie more than the album. That's all good and well, but because an Oscar-winner directed a movies doesn't mean the album is great. I mean, it is, but still, one does not equal the other.
Best song: Considering it's largely a greatest hits compilation, just about every song is great. Since it's the Heads, I'll repeat my love for "Crosseyed and Painless."
Worst song: "Slippery People" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Of course.

"Hi. I've got a tape I want to play you."

So begins "Stop Making Sense." The band's sublime Jonathan Demme-directed concert film is a series of mostly extended shots of the band playing in front of crowds during the band's 1983 tour. The stage is stark, as David Byrne didn't want many distractions for the filming.

The film, of course, is famous for the "big suit" Byrne wears at the end of the film. An homage to Japanese Nogaku theater styles, the suit was become a symbol of the band's quirkiness. It's classic Byrne, as a bizarre look at the world around them.


I can't go on too much about the record. I love the Talking Heads, so my feeling on the record is that it's great. "Life During Wartime" is a strange, impassioned funk song. "Once in a Lifetime" and "Crosseyed and Painless" are played flawlessly to the original versions. "Take Me To The River" is perfectly in Byrne's range. The tape effect of the band in "Psycho Killer" is probably the album's best portion, as Byrne wrestles the sound from the tape.

But, again, it's sort of a greatest hits compilation. The audience is potted down for most of the recording and the band is as tight as ever.


Mister8a said...

This is my favorite album. Not necessarily the best in my collection, but my favorite. I think Talking Heads exceed their studio productions of many of the songs in the *live* concert, and for that, they must be recognized. The one exception is "Once in a Lifetime", which is a bit weak because Byrne can't sing two parts at once.

But "Slippery People" is one of my favorite songs.

I've seen the movie so many times I can watch it mentally while listening to the the two are inseparable to me.

kellydwyer said...

It's so great.

And every super-long, besotted evening at my parents' house ends with this DVD or record being put on, and my Dad giving the same drunken spiel to my girlfriend:

"You see, Byrne comes out by himself at first, with nothing on stage, and then one by one the band comes out, and ..."

fft said...

I would be willing to drop the "Greatest Hits" thing on this one because its a live album that is way different than the original material. Like "Live at Leeds", the songs on this album fit together because of the way they are recorded.

Love it. It may be the only album here where I can say that the DVD is better (it has all the songs.)