AUDIOJUNKIE: Stop making sense: A Talking Heads tribute

At a glance

  • From established rock stars to rising indie musicians, the enduring legacy of Talking Heads' music is undeniable.

Talking Heads photo from their official Facebook.jpg
Talking Heads

If you've seen recent YouTube videos of alt-rock band Paramore performing a rousing cover of the Talking Heads' "Burning Down The House," you're definitely not alone in thinking, 'What a great song and a great cover.' The Hayley Williams-led Paramore debuted their cover during the French leg of the TS Eras Tour, where they were an opening act. Paramore's rendition checks all the boxes, featuring a vibe-y keyboard, a nicely breaking-up amp sound, and a fairly effected guitar that stabs and outlines the upbeat pop-punk rhythm, and Hayley Williams’ gradually building growl gives a worthy nod to the song’s rock roots.

But Paramore is not the only prominent act taking on Talking Heads. Acts like Lorde, Norah Jones, The National, and Miley Cyrus lend energy and a fresh take on Talking Heads' music.

This brings us to "Stop Making Sense," a live album by American rock band Talking Heads, initially released in 1984. It is the soundtrack to the concert film of the same name (directed by Jonathan Demme) and records the band’s three-night run at Hollywood's Pantages Theatre during their tour for the album "Speaking in Tongues." An expanded version of that 1984 live album was released last year, probably bringing renewed interest to the music created by original members David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and Jerry Harrison.

Today, “Stop Making Sense: A Tribute Album” is an apropos title for the massive musical nod to Talking Heads’ continuing influence on rock and pop. The collection boasts an impressive lineup, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the album and featuring all sixteen songs from the original.

composite photo 2 clockwise from Top Talking Heads band file photo Blondshell Lorde Miley Cyrus Paramore from official Facebook pages.jpg
Clockwise from top: Talking Heads, Blondshell, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, and Paramore (Facebook)

This includes Miley Cyrus' electronic-leaning, synth-pulsing rendition of “Psycho Killer,” which will bring Talking Heads back into clubs this 2024. Meanwhile, The National (which boasts frequent Taylor Swift collaborator Aaron Dessner in its lineup) offers an emotional, almost poignant take on the 1979 new wave gem “Heaven.”

Of course, new wave is a recurring music style, and bands like El Mato a un Policia Motorizado, with their Spanish translation of “Slippery People,” highlight this. L.A.-bred band Chicano Batman, featuring Money Mark, offers a slippery and funky “Crosseyed and Painless.” BADBADNOTGOOD, featuring Norah Jones, is playful in its execution of “This Must Be The Place” and is worthy of David Byrne’s whimsy.

The Talking Heads tribute album is also a source of discoveries. Alternative indie rock musician Blondshell (Sabrina Mae Tittelbaum) crushes “Thank You For Sending An Angel.” While The Linda Lindas, the Los Angeles-based all-female band, delivers a spot-on new wave-tinged version of “Found A Job.”

The album also includes DJ Tunez’ chilled-out “Life During Wartime.” Teezo Touchdown with their Talking Heads-y “Making Flippy Floppy.” Jean Dawson’s rootsy-sounding “Swamp.” The Caveman’s faithful “What A Day It Was,” and Kevin Abstract’s creative, artsy, hip-hop-infused reworking of “Once In A Lifetime.” Toro Y Moi x Brijean’s indie-techno “Genius Of Love,” and Girl In Red (Marie Ringheim) with her Cardigan-esque interpretation of “Girlfriend Is Better” also stand out. While Lorde’s rendition of “Take Me To The River '' tempers the original’s no-frills rock with her electro, indie-art pop leanings.

From established rock stars to rising indie musicians, the enduring legacy of Talking Heads' music is undeniable. The release of the "Stop Making Sense: A Tribute Album" pays homage to the band's past and underscores their ongoing impact on contemporary music.