Stop Making Sense

Stop Making Sense ★★★★★

When I was around 12 or 13, and first getting "seriously" into movies, my Dad tried to get me to watch this. He was never a Talking Heads fan, but fed the information that everyone does at this point that, "This is the most famous, most highly regarded, and just in general best, Concert movie ever". The opening with "Psycho Killer" is something that has never left my mind, it's a truly unique and engaging way to start a show. We didn't watch the whole thing though because I didn't care; I also wasn't a Talking Heads fan. I had a greatest hits on my iPod I had tried getting into, but I only [really] liked three songs ("Once in a Lifetime" (still think this is one of their best songs), "Burning Down the House" (it's good, just overplayed to shit), and "Psycho Killer" (is good)), so this movie seemed irrelevant to me. Fast forward 9-10 years, and now I am a major fan of the Talking Heads, and for the last month, maybe more, I've been listening to their discography nonstop. Since that first watch I had become more of a fan over the years, but feel in this last month, that fandom has hit it's zenith, and I felt that the culmination of this obsession should come together with this seminal concert movie, and I am not disappointed in the slightest.

This is the closest thing I've had to a religious experience in, I don't even know how long. There's such a rapturously joyous air that pulses through their music, that is only enhanced when you see that exuberance conveyed through their live performance as well. Though, I think people could watch this and appreciate it for it's, intricacies, and energy, and technical achievements, it, at the end of the day, is just a Talking Heads concert film, so it shocks me so many people "love" it. Like if you aren't a fan of their music, how is this exciting? Maybe that's just a testament to the power of David Byrne and company. While all the credit can't solely go to Byrne, a helluva lot sure can.

There is a through line of energy you can feel on that stage; without David Byrne, the band is nothing, and without the band, David Byrne is nothing. So it doesn't feel like a megalomaniac preaching at his unquestioning audience, but instead a community of musicians celebrating life and music on stage for everyone. Byrne is credited with the lighting and choreography of the show, and both are beyond impressive.

With every song a new layer is added. At first, the additions are obvious. One band member added every song, until the once barren stage, is full of 9 musicians. Then it gets a little more subtle, adding a curtain behind them, then changing the lighting, and then adding a prop (the lamp), or costume changes (a bigger suit). There's an activeness that something, no matter how minor, is going to be changing in the larger picture of the shows design, that it keeps it moving along, almost like a narrative. 

There's also the band's energy and connection with each other. Something as simple as walking around and going back to back with another guitar player, or doing choreographed dance moves with back-up singers, or the third guitar player talking into the mic, or the bass player playing a song from her other band - there's such a sense of community, how can you not get wrapped up in it. I think what keeps it so seamlessly engaging is never knowing where the spontaneous starts, and the choreographed ends. It's almost like a good magic trick. 

Lots of different lighting cues to add levels of dramatics, are nice touches. Everything is impeccable captured by Demme and his team. It was filmed over the course of three nights, which occasionally leads to some choppy edits (the only real flaw with the movie), but mostly Demme shows off a prowess of understanding that the music comes first. 

There are multiple moments I will surely never forget; Byrne dancing with the lamp during “This Must Be the Place”, the almost evangelical preaching during “Once in a Lifetime”, Byrne doing laps around the stage at a speed which is almost alarming, the absolutely mesmerizing finale of “Crosseyed and Painless” which when we finally cut to the audience it feels like the release we’ve been waiting for. I don’t want to give it all away, and I wish there was more I could say. I recommend it to anyone who already is a Talking Heads fan, and even before that I recommend getting into the Talking Heads.

If you’ve never listened, or haven’t beyond the hits, I suggest approaching their albums in chronological order. If you have and give any slight shits this is how I rank their albums at the moment (only the top two and last one are cemented, the rest change pretty frequent)(I haven’t listened to True Stories because I’ve wanted to see the movie first).
 1. Remain in Light
 2. Talking Heads: 77
 3. Little Creatures
 4. Fear of Music
 5. Speaking in Tongues 
 6. More Songs About Buildings and Food
 7. Naked

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