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Talking Heads - The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads CD (album) cover

THE NAME OF THIS BAND IS TALKING HEADS

Talking Heads

 

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4.08 | 21 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
5 stars This album, originally released in 1982 as a double-live album, and finally issued on CD in 2004 as a 2-disc package nearly twice as long as the original, is so flabbergastingly awesome that it's literally altered the way I view the band. Thanks to this album, I finally feel like I actually get what the band was trying to do, and furthermore I feel like I can enjoy the band as more than just an "interesting for interesting's sake" group centered around a quirky sonic texture. Hardcore fans of the band's studio efforts may scoff at the fact that it took a live album for me to accomplish this, and they may well be right; however, I would contend that if you have any ear whatsoever for live albums, you'll be able to appreciate what it is about this album that makes that so.

Name is slightly unusual for a live album in that, instead of attempting to give the listener an idea of what a "single representative concert" from the band sounded like, the album functions as an "evolutionary retrospective" of the band's development through the Remain in Light tour. The second disc is actually entirely devoted to that tour, whereas the first disc traces the band's journey from its original minimalistic '77 roots, through the dense guitar interplay and paranoia of '78 and '79. I'll tell you one thing about the '77 performances, taken from a live-in-the-studio recording: there is NO WAY I would have initially considered the songs from that album boring if they had been performed like this. There's just so much power and energy, and Byrne (already) sounds so much more deranged than on the studio album, that by the second listen I was totally floored. Sure, there's a lot to be owed to the remastering efforts, and I'm betting that even the band's club shows didn't sound quite like this, but still, what a listen.

Up next is the '78 Buildings and Food period, where my feelings of "huh, what a neat sound, if only I could remember more of the songs" turns into "wow, these are great songs!" I mean, yeah, I always thought "Found a Job" ruled, but replacing the extended Carribbean vibes coda with an extended coda of one guitar chugging away and the other playing the melody of the original coda again and again and again in such a brazen, audience-be-damned manner was just a stroke of genius. And sheesh, how did "Girls Want to be with the Girls" and (especially) "I'm Not in Love" become so intensely enjoyable? How did "Big Country" stop sucking, and how did "Drugs" become so freaking pleasant in addition to retaining a measure of creepiness? I know of some who want to put the blame solely with Eno for causing the studio versions of these tracks to have so much less power than these live performances, and maybe they'd have a point, but that would ignore the big step up in the pre-Eno '77 tracks. Let's just attribute it to Talking Heads being a great live band, mmkay?

Come '79, the band's live performances start to (naturally) take on the mood of Fear, even in tracks that had been penned earlier (both "Artists Only" and "Stay Hungry," the latter of which is given a neat dark keyboard passage in the middle, are done in somewhat disturbing ways). "Mind," "Air" and "Heaven" are all easily the equals of their studio versions (and in some ways superior; yay for energy and extra atmosphere), and "Memories Can't Wait" is very arguably superior, if only because of the extra echo on David's voice, and the weird mannerisms he takes on when singing.

So that's disc 1. Disc 2 sees the band expanding greatly, bringing in six extra musicians to make the sound fuller and give the group even a fighting chance of replicating the world- beat craziness of Remain in Light. The really good news out of all this is that Adrian Belew is here and in top form, contributing his bizarrely diverse sonic pallette in its full splendor, but it's just as nice to have everybody else around (especially Bernie Worrell on clavinet). Now, I know that some people would probably shrug their shoulders at the fact that the best the band can pull off is mimicing the studio versions, and that due to the lack of a bazillion studio overdubs they can't even pull that off completely. In other words, one might ask, what's the point of this disc? Well, I'll tell you; it's that listening to this ensemble working its collective tail off to make these songs work causes me to respect and even to enjoy these songs (I'm speaking primarily of the Light material, you see) more than I did as meticulous studio creations. In particular, "Houses in Motion" and "Born Under Punches" are nearly revelatory, and I say that as somebody who enjoyed these songs before and now loves them. "Punches" gets an interesting deconstruction, letting the main bassline occupy the forefront of the song in the introduction and in large part through the rest, and "Motion" is so hypnotic here it drives me nuts (in a good way). Throw in great performances of (among other things) "Warning Sign," "Cities," "I Zimbra," "Drugs" (cheerful like the one on the first disc, but also keeping the creepy effects of the studio version, making this the definitive version), "Animals" (which is totally transformed in the coda, and while I don't love this version more than the original, I definitely have an affinity for the laid- back ending here), "Life During Wartime" and "Take Me to the River" (which I enjoy a lot more than the Stop Making Sense version), and you have an absolutely necessary listen as far as I'm concerned.

In the end, then, this is so necessary, not only for Heads fans, but also for any pop music fan in general, that the fact that we had to wait so long for a CD issue of this seems in retrospect like an unpardonable crime by the music industry. Even if you don't have an interest in Talking Heads, you should have this; with 33 tracks, representing 28 tracks from the band's first four albums (and two non-album tracks), this really does satisfy the cliche of "Only Talking Heads Album You Need." Pick it up asap if you have any taste whatsoever.

tarkus1980 | 5/5 |

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