Talking Heads - Talking Heads Brick
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Talking Heads
Talking Heads Brick

Like any person who listened to the radio heavily in the 1980s, I heard a lot of the Talking Heads. Of course, the songs that were played on the radio are the tracks that everyone knows, and I think that by age 14, I knew most of the words to "Psycho Killer," "Once In A Lifetime," "Burning Down The House," "Wild Wild Life," and "And She Was." Beyond that, I didn't know a whole lot about the group, other than that Saturday Night Live did a sorta funny spoof of the twitchy movement of David Byrne wearing far too large of a suit (with goofy vocals to match).

In college, I really started to explore music more, and for some reason I seemed to skip right by the group in favor of music that seemed (to me anyway) a lot more current. I went head over heels for early Warp Records releases by Black Dog, Autechre, and Aphex Twin, but I still managed to fill in on different things that I'd missed as well, with a little help from college friends of mine that were a little more "in the know" than I was at the time.

By the time I'd graduated from college, I'd heard most of the records by the Talking Heads, a couple of them enough times to form opinions on which albums were my favorite, along with particular songs that jumped out at me from each release. Even then, though, I didn't find myself stalking up on their releases, relegating the group to a double-tape best of compilation that eventually found itself permanently lodged in a shoebox as my CD collection grew and grew.

Last year, almost out of the blue I suddenly decided that I should give the group another solid listen. My wife had a couple of their CDs, and when I listened to them, I started to hear things that I hadn't heard before, even though the production quality of the albums somewhat bugged me. There was something in their music that was drawing me in, I couldn't deny it. I picked up a couple more of their CDs and then heard rumors of a full re-release of their work (beyond the odd-shaped box set that was already released last year).

Late last year, this Talking Heads Dualdisc Box Set dropped onto the market, and being both a sucker for fancy packaging and boxsets in general, I added it to my list of things I should buy. Two weeks back, I finally purchased the box set and in the time that I've been listening to it, I've had one of those mini epiphanies that one sometimes get when they rediscover something they feel like they didn't give a fair shake the first time around.

First off, the problems I had with the production of the group have been completely erased due to remastering. All the releases sound great, with punchier bass and sharper beats that no longer have the sort of thin feel that their original releases. Synth parts are juicy when they need to be and a bit brittle and cold when needed. Basically, the discs sound fantastic, with 5.1 surround mixes that I have yet to fully hear with my living room setup (although they sound great on a 2 speaker system as well).

And then there's all the things that I heard before, but didn't seem to appreciate as much as I have with this second chance. The group mixes world beat with synth pop and rock and avant garde bits with crazy polyrhythms and interesting and unique vocal harmonies. Basically, they were a bunch of art school friends that sorta slammed together a bunch of different musical genres and ideas and came out the other end with something catchy and amazing.

Another nice thing about the re-releases is all the bonus material they include. I haven't gotten to all (or even close to) the videos on the DVD portions of the dual-sided discs, but some of the early performances of the group are highly entertaining and the liner notes in each of the discs (including hand-scribbled lyrics and ideas, extended notes from band members, and extra photos) are all nice added bonuses for either fans of the group or someone (like me) who's looking to learn some more about the group I seemed to pass over the first go-around.

If that weren't enough, you get bonus tracks on the discs as well, including my favorite; an instrumental precursor track called "Right Start" that morphed into "Once In A Lifetime." After listening to all the discs again, I have to admit that I'm not a very big fan of their last three albums (at least to the extent that I am their first five), but that said, there's still great songs on each of the last three releases, and the first five discs (including my favorite, Remain In Light, which everyone should at the very least hunt down, even if they don't want to buy the whole set) pretty much make up for that.

This is one of those releases that makes it fun to re-discover a group again, simply because it sounds so great and has so many extras. Granted, it's a bit on the expensive side, but I've already listened to the discs enough to make it more than worth it.

rating: 9.2510
Aaron Coleman 2006-02-16 20:39:15