True Stories

True Stories

David Byrne directed and co-wrote a feature film, True Stories, that used tabloid stories of small-town oddities as a way of exploring American life in the mid-1980s, and wrote songs that Talking Heads recorded for an album, also named True Stories. The movie hints at some of David Lynch’s later work, especially Twin Peaks, and Richard Linklater’s early movies—everyone onscreen in True Stories is an eccentric, even if it’s initially kept hidden. Critic Roger Ebert said the movie seems “haunted with secrets, evasions, loneliness, depravity, or hidden joy.” Cynics called it a condescending look at Middle America from a celebrated East Coast artiste, but the screenplay and the True Stories album are consistent with Byrne’s career-long interest in writing about small things, and finding what’s fascinating about the mundane. Why shouldn’t the guy who wrote songs about paper, animals, and buildings also sing about shopping malls and fur pajamas? The music is a sort of survey of American styles: There’s gospel, soul, New Orleans R&B, Tex-Mex, and especially country. Byrne’s wide-eyed point of view and excited yelping are intact, and the rhythm section of Chris Frantz on drums and Tina Weymouth on bass grounds the songs, no matter their style.

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