Friday, December 31, 2010

345. Stop Making Sense. Talking heads sing to dancing bodies

345. Stop Making Sense. Talking heads sing to dancing bodies

Album: Stop Making Sense
Artist: Talking Head
Year: 1984
Genre: Rocky Pop stuff


  1. Psycho Killer

  2. Swamp

  3. Slippery People

  4. Burning Down the House

  5. Girlfriend Is Better

  6. Once in a Lifetime

  7. What a Day That Was

  8. Life During Wartime

  9. Take Me to the River

I have to confess I’ve always been fairly lukewarm on the idea of the concert movie. The theory is that a band puts together a dynamic live show and then employs a director to capture the event as faithfully as possible. Then when the band is recovering at home trying to wash the cocaine residue out of their underwear an editor turns the footage into a concert movie that can then open in theatres all over the world. Fans who experienced the excitement of the tour can relive the event in a cramped seat with a bucket of popcorn, and those who weren’t there can enjoy the band in a venue ill-designed for dancing or musical enjoyment. It’s a strange way to take rock and roll to a place it wasn’t designed to go.

Stop Making Sense was the name of a concert movie that Talking Heads put together after their 1983 tour. The movie had 16 tracks recorded over 3 nights and unlike most concert movies actually has a storyline of sorts. David Byrne appears onstage on his own for the first number and is gradually joined by an extra band member for each track until the stage is full of performers. It’s a clever effect which is sadly lost in the original Soundtrack album which is basically nine songs culled from the movie and then heavily edited. Songs were doctored and almost all audience noise was removed. The final effect is a strange reinventing of the Talking Heads catalogue rather than any faithful replication of their live shows.

So is it any good? Yes, it is. Thankfully the songs themselves are great and the performances fantastic so the album manages to overcome the hurdles the concept has thrown in front of them. If you only buy one Talking Heads album in your life then it should probably be this one.

Highlight: Psycho Killer or Burning down the House
Lowlight: Take me to the River

Influenced by: That area where Cinema and Rock colide.
Influenced: Phish

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote (this is from the reviews for the movie but I had to include it because it’s priceless): I loved "Stop Making Sense" when it hit the movie theaters back in the mid 80's. I was Very Disappointed with the DVD. It Was Not the movie !! It was all this bogus and unnecessary commentary laid over a classic piece of performing arts. The ceaseless drivel totally ruined this classic live music performance. I would Very Much like to get the Original Movie & not this dubbed nonsense. I am very unsatisfied.

-As many others pointed out in the talkback this reviewer would have had a more satisfying experience if they turned the commentary track off.

So did you enjoy it when Talking Heads stopped making sense or do you wish they’d start making sense again, or did you think they never made sense so couldn’t stop anyway... or has this sentence stopped making sense? Let me know below.


  1. I love the new color(-slash-font?). Hope it stays, personally.

    I am sure I've heard 'Burning Down the House," if not a cover of it. Personally though, the first time I remember hearing about this band was in a special feature of.... Harry Potter 3.

    There was a semi-joke interview on the special features by some guy and a shrunken voodoo-head. They were talking about favorite music acts, and the voodoo head spoke aloud, "Mine? Isn't it obvious? The Talking Heads." Got a chuckle out of the main three actors.

    Also, Happy New Year!

  2. Ryan,

    Glad to hear you like the colour change but sad to say it's not permanent (I hate it myself). It was caused by a blog problem which I hope I've fixed now.