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.