Talking Heads Album Reviews

New York art-rockers Talking Heads began their career in legendary New York club CBGB, effectively the focal point for American New Wave;  The Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, and Blondie also launched their careers there. While these groups all came from the same place and time, they’re a diverse bunch, and Talking Heads have their own niche as an arty and endearingly dorky band.

Scottish born frontman David Byrne and drummer Chris Frantz recruited Frantz’ girlfriend Tina Weymouth on bass. Keyboard player and guitarist Jerry Harrison signed on after finishing his architecture degree, having earlier gained a profile as the keyboard player in seminal proto punkers The Modern Lovers, Jonathan Richman’s backing band.

The Talking Heads can sound thin, and on their best albums, they have either auxiliary musicians fleshing out their sound or Brian Eno’s production providing another point of interest. Their best albums involve all four members collaborating, but their later records are dominated by Byrne, and are less interesting for it. The group’s sound changed quite markedly over their career; on their early albums, they have a nervy, minimal new wave sound, with Byrne’s paranoid lyrics and vocals taking centre stage. But mid-career, they recruited extra musicians and often used funk grooves, while Little Creatures and True Stories have more of an acoustic sound with some country influences.

I am missing a couple of albums below – I don’t always bother with live albums, and have covered 1984’s Stop Making Sense, but the 2004 reissue of 1982’s live album The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads has generally been acclaimed. I also haven’t covered their final 1988 album Naked – I was disappointed enough by 1985’s Little Creatures and 1986’s True Stories that I haven’t ventured further. I have also tried the group’s solo careers, and have generally been disappointed – apart from Byrne’s collaborative albums with Eno, the one album that I’ve enjoyed is Byrne’s 1981 soundtrack for The Catherine Wheel.

Ten Best Talking Heads Songs

I Zimbra
Once In A Lifetime
The Great Curve
Burning Down The House
Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place)
Memories Can’t Wait
Uh Oh, Love Comes To Town
Thank You For Sending Me An Angel
Crosseyed and Painless
Listening Wind