KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – TALKING HEADS “TRUE STORIES”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986, which now shifts to the releases I didn’t discover until after 1986]

Artist: TALKING HEADS
Album: TRUE STORIES

Talking Heads - True StoriesI liked some Talking Heads songs during high school, when they transitioned from an underground band to mainstream hit-makers, but the only album I owned was the live Stop Making Sense soundtrack. Even though my college cover band played a few of their songs it wasn’t until I was 26, when I bought a newly-released 2-CD compilation, that I finally started to appreciate just how special & unique they were. Yet it would be another 13 years before I finally listened to each of their albums via the 2005 “Brick” box set. The stereo & surround sound mixes included on those discs showcase an ever-evolving musical unit that rarely repeated themselves, and my appreciation was heightened further when I chose them to be the second artist I covered here at KamerTunesBlog. My 4-part Talking Heads series in May 2011 was the result of a few extremely rewarding weeks of musical enlightenment. Their 1986 album True Stories is far from their best work but it contains enough excellent material to warrant its own Thirty Year Thursday feature. Here’s what I wrote about it in Part 4 of that series.

The next album, True Stories (1986), was a quasi-soundtrack to a film directed by David Byrne. He had intended for various cast members to sing the songs in character, but was convinced to record the vocals himself and make it an official Talking Heads album. For the most part, it’s a weaker version of the previous album, although there are a handful of killer songs that make it worth listening to. The hit single was “Wild Wild Life,” an infectious upbeat pop/rock song that I enjoyed playing with my college band. Album opener “Love For Sale” is one of the most “rock” songs in their catalog, its insistent drum beat and crunchy guitars recalling the heavier side of The Cars. It lightens up during the choruses, but the driving beat is relentless. I enjoyed the driving, keyboard-centric “Puzzlin’ Evidence,” with its gospel-style vocal choir. “Radio Head” is a decent song that apparently made enough of an impression on a young British quintet named On A Friday that, upon signing with a major label five years later, they renamed their band after it (shortening the title to one word). One other notable track is “People Like Us,” a country-sounding song (due to the inclusion of steel guitar & fiddle) that brings to mind their earlier song “The Big Country.” Not sure if there’s a connection between the two, but they both seem to reference a “middle America” that Byrne is not quite comfortable with.

I can’t imagine there are many Talking Heads fans who rank this among their best albums but maybe some of you will surprise me. All opinions of True Stories are welcome.

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4 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – TALKING HEADS “TRUE STORIES”

  1. dagersh
    August 28, 2016

    Hi Rich,

    Although not my favorite Talking Heads album, I do love True Stories, both the album and the movie. I think the album is their best later-period album (that is, better than Little Creatures and Naked). It’s less cloyingly cute than Little Creatures, and for me, it has an innocence to it that isn’t forced. The movie is like a cuter, gentler David Lynch film, and most of the songs work really well in the context of the movie, even though they’re sung by the actors.

    Of course, none of their final three albums can touch any of the first five albums, all of which are simply fantastic.

    Dave

    Like

    • Hi Dave. I think I might like Little Creatures a little more than True Stories. They’re both solid but flawed and, as you pointed out, not in the same league as the first five albums. Those were just a joy to re-discover when I revisited their catalog in 2011. I haven’t listened to them since then so I need to remedy that soon. I also need to see the movie True Stories, which slipped under my radar when it was released. I was in college at the time and was probably aware of it but didn’t get to the theater or check it out of the video store.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope you had a good weekend.
      Rich

      Liked by 1 person

  2. amtlpaul
    September 9, 2016

    I only started listening to Talking Heads around the time this album came out, so this was one of the first I heard (along with Little Creatures). I didn’t get into their earlier stuff until later, and even that that took a while, because these two albums are the most straightforwardly “pop-rock” albums in the catalogue. The others…not so much. I think in retrospect True Stories is the grittier of those two albums. It may not be the best Talking Heads album (my favourite now is the exapanded version of The Name of This Band…followed by Fear of Music), it is still a very enjoyable listen.

    Like

    • Hi Paul. Thanks for stopping by. This would have been an interesting introduction to Talking Heads, since it’s so different than their earlier records. Glad you went back to check those out. I agree that the expanded version of The Name Of This Band… is pretty spectacular, and possibly the best introduction to what they were all about. Fear Of Music is also amazing. I haven’t played their music too often since I wrote this series, so I need to revisit them soon.

      Like

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