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Everyone’s Getting Involved: A Tribute To Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense (A24)


MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION first: should you buy this? No. God no. What is wrong with you? There is virtually no tribute album that justifies its existence beyond one or two listens – by which time you hopefully have decided to buy the original recordings – and I say this as someone with a dozen or more tribute records.

If you don’t already own the Talking Heads album, get yourself a copy of Stop Making Sense – on CD, vinyl, audio cassette, tin impression, or anything really – before you even consider buying this. And once you have purchased it, put your money away while you listen to Talking Heads. You’re welcome.

Ok, you want to know what you’re not getting? Fair enough. That we can do.

As tribute albums go this has a reasonable rate of not terrible/listenable to tedious/uninviting. It’s not Duran Duran doing Public Enemy, put it that way. So, in the main you won’t stagger away from your speakers asking yourself what have I done to deserve this.

The Linda Lindas bustling through Found A Job (“Judy’s in the bedroom/Inventing situations”) with a rhythm more hectic than strictly funky can argue that the original recording of the song, on 1978’s More Songs About Buildings And Food, predates the Heads full commitment to funk. And this sounds fine as a not quite funky band being not quite funky. There is better return on Girlfriend Is Better from Girl In Red who has some of the edge of her own music, mainly in the guitars, and the potential to bend the song further. Which sadly she doesn’t. 

Likewise, BadBadNotGood’s amble through the amiable This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody) is kinda sweet and kinda pretty and the kinda Frippy guitar between prominent flute and walking bass is kinda dirty in a smudge on your kid’s nose kinda way, and Chicano Batman’s Crosseyed And Painless is content in the main to throw on some wobbly electronic sounds as the gift-with-purchase to an otherwise by-the-numbers reproduction. You do wonder what might happen if they weren’t all so reverential.

They are more interesting than Lorde’s Take Me To The River and Teezo Touchdown’s Making Flippy Floppy for sure. The former never really nails the lope-with-threat of the original Heads or the fluidity of the original original, from Al Green; the latter ends up sounding like what you might expect when somebody has read about LCD Soundsystem and their debt to Talking Heads without understanding the blend of tension and still-taut release both New York bands managed.

More successful in that way is Jean Dawson’s countrified Swamp, which puts the tension in the absence of threat, removing the more obvious balance of leer and lurch in the Speaking With Tongues original and making an almost disorienting deadpan rootsiness. And Kevin Abstract’s Once In A Lifetime is completely refashioned, in the chorus, where the prickliness of the verses almost washes away in a herbal wave.

One of the few – very, very few – occasions where pretty much sticking to the original formulation is both interesting and successful on a tribute album is to be found on this record. The National’s warm-even-in-alienation spin on Heaven works because it actually feels like a National song, in tone and structure – it doesn’t hurt that they’ve been playing it live on and off for years – bar the absence of one of Bryan Devendorf’s signature drum rhythms.

It’s good to listen to. But no, it’s not essential. Get almost any Talking Heads or The National record instead. You’ll thank me.





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