1982: Talking Heads - The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads

This isn’t what I thought would happen. I thought I would listen to this 27-year-old live album and compare different eras of Talking Heads: the 1977-1979 version (disc one), the 1980-1981 version (disc two), and, based on their later material, what the band eventually became. To their credit, Talking Heads sound equally energetic, smart, and dedicated on both discs. (Knowing that this is the band that later made “And She Was” also makes for a compelling listen.)

The Name Of This Band originally came out with 13 fewer tracks than this 2004 reissue, and in the interim fans grew increasingly concerned that the album would never be released on CD. The reissue was met with enthusiasm, and rightly so: not only was it a long time coming, it’s a very good document of a band excited about what their discoveries. Stop Making Sense rightly gets recognized as a great Talking Heads live record, but this collection is just as mesmerizing.

Disc one includes performances by the band in its original four-piece lineup, while the second includes more musicians (including King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew) and a couple of backup singers. While each disc has its own feel, the songs are equally amazing from show to show (and year to year). The band's knack for arrangement is more evident in a live setting than on their albums, and it’s easy to see how their approach -- separate, seemingly dissimilar parts adding up to an airtight whole -- made such an impression on bands like Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend.

Despite Talking Heads’ ample musicianship, highlights here have more to do with the band’s incredible songwriting. “Don’t Worry About The Government” retains its sly absurdity, “Psycho Killer” its fervency, “Take Me To The River” its vague menace, “Heaven” its heartbreaking bluntness. It’s interesting to hear “Once In a Lifetime,” a swirl of abstraction in its album version, as the straight-up rock song it inherently is. The band stomps through these tracks as if slowing down would kill them; you can picture David Byrne, as always, twitching and jerking as if in the midst of a seizure.

While it seems ridiculous to say so, The Name Of This Band... is sometimes too much of a good thing: the album’s 33 tracks are a lot to take in at once, and sheer quantity sometimes works against the songs that should stand out more. But this is a minor complaint, especially if you take this great collection one disc (that is, era) at a time. It's a startling portrait of a band that, to cop a phrase from one of their songs, stayed hungry.

Disc 1 (1977-1979):

1. New Feeling
2. A Clean Break (Let’s Work)
3. Don’t Worry About The Government
4. Pulled Up
5. Psycho Killer
6. Who Is It?
7. The Book I Read
8. The Big Country
9. I’m Not In Love
10. The Girls Want To Be With The Girls
11. Electricity (Drugs)
12. Found A Job
13. Mind
14. Artists Only
15. Stay Hungry
16. Air
17. Love – Building On Fire
18. Memories (Can’t Wait)
19. Heaven

Disc 2 (1980-1981):

1. Psycho Killer
2. Warning Sign
3. Stay Hungry
4. Cities
5. I Zimbra
6. Drugs (Electricity)
7. Once In a Lifetime
8. Animals
9. Houses In Motion
10. Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
11. Crosseyed and Painless
12. Life During Wartime
13. Take Me To The River
14. The Great Curve

DeLorean

There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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