There had been nothing like it to that point, nor would there be again -- a film that got audiences dancing in the aisles, that turned movie theaters into concert halls and popcorn patrons into spasmodic participants. In theory, Jonathan Demme's rockumentary shouldn't have worked; rock and roll is made to be heard, not seen, and concert films are often no different from educational film strips about the processing of sausage. (Even the Martin Scorsese-The Band adios The Last Waltz, all these years later, feels like an all-star Labor Day telethon.) But put an art-rock band in the hands of an art-rock director, and what you see is what you hear is what you feel is what you get and then some.
It never hurt that the Talking Heads might well have been the best band of the 1980s -- no-wavers with a big-band funk fetish and the prowess for turning the simplest rhythms and melodies into heart attacks. Maybe that's why the band was so much better on stage than in studio, especially during the Brian Eno years. If an art-school student knows anything, it's that nothing beats a first take. You never paint over perfection.
Fifteen years later, Warner Bros. Records finally gets it right. As the remastered edition of Stop Making Sense tours the country (skipping Dallas, but of course), the Talking Heads' former label celebrates the moment by adding seven songs onto what was initially an emasculated soundtrack album that paled in comparison to The Name of this Band Is Talking Heads, the live two-fer out a mere two years earlier. Seven songs (among them "Heaven," "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)," and "Genius of Love") previously abandoned to the cutting room join the nine original tracks to create what is, finally, the essential Talking Heads record -- a best-and-rest-of that begins with the quiet, quixotic melodrama of "Psycho Killer" and ends with the breathless workout on "Crosseyed and Painless."
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No yahaddabethere this time around, Stop Making Sense Special New Edition lives up to and beyond its clean-out-the-vaults hype; listen only to the wistful and lonely "Heaven" redo, and the go-funk-yourselves "Found a Job" and "Making Flippy Floppy." The name of this band is playful, from hit single ("Burning Down the House") to relatively obscure get-down-get-down ("Thank You for Sending Me an Angel"). In its expanded version, Stop Making Sense is now the third-best live album ever made, shooting it past Warren Zevon's Stand in the Fire and the Rolling Stones' Get Yet Ya-Ya's Out. Only The Who's remastered, restored Live at Leeds and the Velvet Underground's Live 1969 top it. And then, just barely.