Stop Making Sense (1984)
"Hi! I've got a tape I wanna play."
Best Song: Burning Down the House or Crosseyed and Painless
Worst Song: Genius of Love
Okay, first things first -- if you haven't seen Stop Making Sense, stop reading this review and watch it immediately. This album is essentially nothing more than a straight audio recording of the infamous concert film, and while the soundtrack is great in its own right, it's truly something to behold when you're watching the real thing. Directed by Jonathan Demme of Silence of the Lambs fame, it's easily the best concert movie ever made, Last Waltz-be-damned. It's filmed excellently, the band is at its peak in playing prowess (they were nine members strong at this point), and the setlist is a wonderful combo of the band's entire career up to this point. By all means, see it, even if you're not a Heads fan.
As far as the album itself is concerned, it's fine; it may not be as powerful without actually seeing the band put all of this stuff together, but it still makes for a great listen. And for those of you who already own Name of This Band, there's definitely some stuff of interest on here for you as well. First off, you get several renditions of tracks from Speaking in Tongues (which all sound better here than they did in their original incarnations); the ridiculously energetic "Burning Down the House" is a clear highlight, but "Swamp" and "Slippery People" groove along mightily as well, and "This Must Be the Place" is as delightful as ever. You'll also get a wonderful acoustic rendition of "Thank You for Sending Me an Angel" (which was unfortunately one of the few tracks from the band's early epoch not to make it onto Name of This Band), a ditty from Tina and Jerry's Tom Tom Club side project called "Genius of Love" (okay, this one's not so great), and a wonderfully catchy rarity called "What a Day That Was" which you can't find anywhere else.
Everything else can be found on Name of This Band, but it's not like these versions are completely worthless; for one, the expanded band sounds a good bit tighter here than they did back then, and as such, songs like "Once in a Lifetime" and especially "Life During Wartime" (man, this version of "Wartime" is incredible) sound quite a bit improved from their previous incarnations...but nothing compares to the BRILLIANT rendition of "Crosseyed and Painless", which might just improve on the original. Yeah, that's right -- the live band sounds even better than Eno's production. Impressive.
There's also a beautifully stripped-down performance of "Heaven", a decent run-through of "Take Me to the River", and a perfectly fine "Found a Job". Oh, and Byrne even attempts an acoustic version of "Psycho Killer" that works far better than it has any right to.
Okay, there's not much for me to say here, honestly -- as far as negatives go, there might be a few too many tracks from Speaking in Tongues, and since nearly everything on here features the band in full-out-arena-dance mode, it starts getting a little monotonous by the last half of the album. But hey, if you're a fan of Speaking in Tongues or a MASSIVE fan of Name of This Band who's dying for more live Heads, you'll be all over this. Anybody else? Eh, just watch the movie.