Stop Making Sense Turns 30

by SongMango's Rocking Reporters
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Stop Making sense Byrne full length

In 1984, the crazy band was roughly halfway through its career. Yet a bewildered world was still not ready for the arty, Post-Punk musings set to a simple groove that David Byrne and Talking Heads unleashed on Stop Making Sense.

In April of that year, the concert movie of the same name, heavily staged – and choreographed in its own bent way – was released to critical acclaim, outrage, indifference and puzzlement. It took Byrne and his crew about six months to re-edit and “fix” the soundtrack for the enduringly powerful audio album.

In a decision that has had a happy effect on the work’s legacy, Byrne decided to record the concert performance digitally, yielding to his well-documented passion for analog techniques. Today, three decades on, the sound is remarkably vivid. That it is a live recording only further exalts the virtuoso abilities of the producers and on-the ground sound men.

These thirty years later, though the tracks are as familiar as views of the Statue Of Liberty, each continues to surprise and confound. The ever-self-conscious Byrne put his audience on notice regarding his outlook and goals in one of the most peculiar promo films of all-time. It’s not quite a trailer, not quite a joke, but sends a message as to the flavor of both the movie and album.

Byrne was and is an oddly funny guy. In everything he says, and almost everything Talking Heads issued, there are sharply brilliant facets that are beautiful to listen to but also cut deeply.

One track not to be missed on Stop Making Sense is “Girlfriend Is Better,” the lyrics of which supply the words for the album title.

I got a girlfriend thats better than this
And you don’t remember at all
As we get older and stop making sense
You won’t find her waiting long
Stop making sense, stop making sense
Stop making sense, making sense

“Girlfriend Is Better” live, from the film, Stop Making Sense

Like all the songs on Stop Making Sense, “Girlfriend” is filled with wildly innovative uses of syncopation, infectiously jumpy bass-lines, and a bitches brew of Punk, New Wave and Psychedelic Funk. It’s a masterwork of Rock-N-Roll – shouting, teasing, cajoling, pouting, irony dripping – all dished up with an irresistible dance rhythm that played into the renewed interest in dance music in the downtown New York and electrified London scenes of the era. Indeed, it’s not hard to hear the roots of contemporary EDM in the song.

Talking Heads influenced countless bands that followed. Even someone as popular as Bruce Springsteen caught Heads-fever. (Of course, it’s easy to trace the roots of Talking Heads back to David Bowie and producer Brian Eno. Iggy Pop lurks in Talking Heads’ work as well.)

Everyone who cares about Rock should own this album. Buncha fine, wonderful freaks is what they were.

Buy Stop Making Sense here.