Talking Heads

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About Talking Heads

In a promotional video for Talking Heads’ 1984 live album Stop Making Sense, an interviewer who looks suspiciously like David Byrne as an elderly man asks David Byrne how he can be a singer when his voice is so bad. Byrne, who is dressed in a giant suit, answers blankly: “The better the singer’s voice, the harder it is to believe what they’re saying.” When the band started out in mid-'70s New York after meeting at the Rhode Island School of Design (Byrne, drummer Chris Frantz, bassist Tina Weymouth, and, later, keyboardist Jerry Harrison), they seemed like the antithesis to the rebellion of punk: They were mild-mannered, neatly dressed, well-educated, and soft-spoken (“Psycho Killer,” “The Big Country”). Weirdest of all, they made music you could dance to (“Found a Job”). But even as they got a little weirder (“Once in a Lifetime,” “And She Was,” “Burning Down the House”), they retained a primitive simplicity that not only rejected conventional rock excess but flew in the face of the ’60s myths of peace and liberation that punk helped dismantle. And for as playful it could be, their music maintained a baseline level of anxiety that hinted at rage and disillusionment without ever expressing it outright (“Crosseyed and Painless,” “Life During Wartime”). They made using your brain seem cool, and not mutually exclusive to using your hips or your heart. And as they branched into global sounds (“I Zimbra,” “Born Under Punches,” “[Nothing But] Flowers”), they furthered their general case that however arty and detached they came off, they were as human as we were—and there was nothing stranger you could be.

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