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Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense CD (album) cover


Talking Heads


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3.41 | 44 ratings

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Easy Money
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2 stars I saw the Talking Heads live in about 1978 when they were one of the most interesting and refreshingly new bands to come along in quite a while. Neither hippies nor punks, the Heads presented an almost machine like minimalist groove that reduced the individual band members into one selfless unit that was very disciplined and tightly focused, the exact opposite of excessive 70s rock dinosaurs as well as melodramatic punk rock drama queens. The entire late 70s concert I witnessed was hypnotic and urgent, totally spell- binding and futuristic in its denial of the usual rock-n-roll Dionysian ascetic. Flash forward to 2004 and the Heads are big rock stars now and their music is really huge sounding in that 70s classic rock sort of way and despite their critical success it seems the Talking Heads have lost track of everything that used to make them so unique. Not only have the Heads unconsciously succumbed to the predictable numbing excesses of rock, but this downhill slide has been grossly magnified by the fact that David Byrne has decided he is a great rock personality and singer when in fact he is not. When the T Heads first started out, Byrne's vocals were shy and nervously offered as part of the band's overall mix, but now David steps to the front as an unlikely rock-n-roll hero; an uncomfortable mix of Iggy Pop, Johnathan Richman, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan and Pee Wee Herman, an over the top vocalist who is embarrassing in his indulgent excesses. This album is aptly called Stop Making Sense because it made no sense for the Talking Heads to trade in their unique disciplined nerd funk-rock for the same old sloppy hippie excess that they used to be the opposite of.

There are some good points, Burning Down the House sounds like a cross between two classic Hot Chocolate singles (Everyone's a Winner and I Believe in Miracles) and is the best little funky dance number the Heads ever created/borrowed. Countryish groove rocker, What a Day That Was, isn't too bad and the music fits Byrne's vocal delivery better than the funky numbers. Also, guest keyboardist Bernie Worrell is the genius he always is. Although Worrell never received the accolades that fellow 70s multi-keyboardists like Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman received, he is capable of anything they can do and then some. After his work with the complex art funk of Parliament, playing with the T Heads was probably a sleep walk, but he ties the band together with tight rhythms and adds his trademark creative synthesizer colors as well.

Album closer, Al Green's Take Me to the River, epitomizes what is wrong here. The original studio cover of this song by the Heads was a great quirky modernistic take on Green's soul classic. Quite wisely, the Heads at that time avoided any attempt to approximate Green or his unmistakable southern soul roots. On this new live version it sounds like the Heads are already on the Las Vegas revival circuit scene with big back-up vocals and a huge rave-up performance that is mostly a tacky disservice to Al Green's smooth and subtle original.

Easy Money | 2/5 |


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