Saturday, May 14, 2016

Classic Album Review: Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense (1984)

It is David Byrne’s 64th birthday today. While many would argue that Byrne’s best work came when collaborating with Brian Eno, or when working in a solo guise, for me, he’ll forever be Mr Talking Heads. Here’s a look back at one of that band’s finest moments ...

Stop Making Sense is the soundtrack to the film, and “live concert” footage, of the same name, and it is essentially Talking Heads captured in their most natural habitat; a humbling, unforgiving, instinctive, “live” state. It’s an environment in which they thrive, it should be said, all rhythm and boundless energy, with David Byrne as front man extraordinaire, and an exceptionally well-oiled unit providing the groove.

I’ve never really been a huge fan of the band, after suffering a serious bout of over-exposure thanks to errant FM radio play-listing executives of a particularly mid-Eighties vintage. Not through any great fault of the band itself, then, and revisiting this material some three decades later, without the overkill-factor, has been an enlightening experience.

On Stop Making Sense there’s a lot to like. From the instantly infectious punchy opener ‘Psycho Killer’ – arguably the best example of “acoustic disco” ever – to the languid lazy Stones-drenched gospel-funk of the closer ‘Take Me To The River’, this album gives us a couple of bookends to drool over. In between, we get the best of the rest, a live “greatest hits” package of sorts; the excellent ‘Swamp’, the raw and dysfunctional groove of ‘Slippery People’, the madcap bounce and stomp of ‘Burning Down The House’, and the typically Eighties, frankly very weird, yet still oddly compelling, ‘Girlfriend Is Better’. Then there is ‘Once In A Lifetime’ (“letting the days go by”) … all prototype David Byrne freak-out … pure Heads; a five and a half minute mix of social commentary, prophetic insight, and unabashed sarcasm.

Only Talking Heads sound like this, and Stop Making Sense is a great snapshot of everything the band was about, everything it was best at, all somehow crammed into just 46 and a half minutes here.

Oh, and damn those bloody Eighties radio jocks … it seems they may well have had some taste after all.


  1. Nice one Mike. I have this album in my collection of tapes that have been gathering dust for years. I wonder if it still plays, or if I thrashed it too much when I was younger?

  2. Thanks for the comment Joseph. I think I probably had just this one and one other - More Songs About Buildings And Food? (or somethingorother) - and it's true that commercial radio killed Talking Heads for me for a long time. Yet I've always liked David Byrne, if you can appreciate the diff.