Picks and Pans Review: The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads
At the end of Side One of this double-disc set of live performances from 1977 to 1981, David Byrne calls to his cheering audience, "Thank you very muHHHH-uuuch!" It's a typical Byrnian quirk: This band is so inventive, even the way it says thanks takes you off guard. The first bars of New Feeling, recorded in 1977, can be taken as an announcement about musical values. Byrne sings "It's not yesterday anymore"—while two guitars and a bass begin a boiling cross-rhythm. The early Heads captured aspects of the '70s no other group did, from the spaced-out Don't Worry About the Government ("Some civil servants are just like my loved ones /They work so hard and they try to be strong/I'm a lucky guy to live in my building") to the irrational menace of Psycho Killer. Just as important, the four Heads—Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison and Tina Weymouth—devised fascinating new melodies and structures and achieved a controlled ferocity unsurpassed in rock's history. The first disc spans 1977-79 performances; the second documents the Heads' expansion into the nine-piece band that made Remain in Light, an experiment in communal music-making, Byrne later explained, inspired by African villages. The Remain in Light cuts vary in intensity, but Crosseyed and Painless is a sexy dance workout. And the Heads supergroup thunders through the band's disco hit, Life During Wartime. As the song says, "This ain't no party/This ain't no disco/This ain't no foolin' around!"