Rockbrat Wonders: Were Talking Heads The Most Overrated Band Of All?

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Nerd is the word …..

Are Talking Heads the most overrated band of all time ? They are certainly up there. I never understood Talking Heads. They were a band whom never spoke to me – and as a consequence, were a band I never had any time for. Nerds. Art school nerds. History as shown that they came up as part of the NYC punk scene and were a CBGB’s band – but they weren’t a Ramones/Dead Boys/Blondie CB’s band – no leather jackets and ripped jeans rock ‘n’ roll – Polo shirts and tucked in jeans – they were art school geeks with quirky lyrics, thinking music for listeners with Asperger’s – Arty farty crap. Nerd Rock. They came up through the punk period – but they weren’t a punk band. Art punk ? Punk bands of that period were bands like The Boys, The Lurkers, The Damned. Whenever I bought a punk compilation LP and Talking Heads were on it, I skipped the track.  Its arguable that had they come up as part of the UK punk scene, they would not have made it. According to Wikepedia, “Talking Heads helped to pioneer new wave music by integrating elements of punk, art rock, dance, pop and world music with avant-garde sensibilities and an anxious, clean-cut image.” Really? Who wrote that dross?  Their breakthrough song – “Psycho Killer”, was so at odds with everything else being released by their peers. Byrne’s annoying screech on the chorus ‘Run Run Away, I , I , I , ay” – is painful to listen through. I read a review once that called him a ‘Genius’? Genius ? Hardly. Even Byrne himself said in recent years that he was borderline Aspergers. Looking back, that’s pretty apparent. Which is neither good nor bad – just how it is, and not a

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The result of consulting Liberace for costume ideas…….ghastly.

criticism or judgment. A big deal was made of the fact that they had a female bass player – they became known for that. Who cares ? I think she originally was only in the band cos she was the girlfriend of David Byrne, she couldn’t play bass. Apparently, Byrne “unable to find a bass player in New York”, persuaded her to learn the bass. David Byrne was a complete nerd. He must have been intimated by his peers of that time – Joey Ramone, Stiv, Debbie Harry and the like. He had an awkward style, dressed like a nerd, and was geek personified. That they became big in the mid 80s was odd to me. Stop Making Sense? Not if they were the other option. Baggy suits, burning down the house. Just shows you what a shit time this was for music. As the late 70s and mid 80s rolled through, Talking Heads were all about African beats / disco funk. Ugh. In the mid 80s you couldn’t turn on MTV without having that Stop Making Sense nonsense forced down your throat. Songs like “And She Was” and “Wild Wild Life, ‘Burning Down The House’, were irritatingly given unnecessary exposure – and subsequently became hits – yet this was a time when the charts were filled with this kind of nonsense. Whenever I hear ‘Like Humans Do” or “Once in a lifetime”, I feel like puking. Looking back, that the band had major international success was an anomaly to me. They must have been tedious to see live. That David Byrne has had a sustained career and enjoyed an international profile doesn’t say much for peoples tastes. Same reason why people bought records by Simply Red or Phil Collins records I guess. Passé. That Talking Heads are also in the banal ‘Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame” says more about what a redundant organisation that truly is. Kudos to Steve Miller for calling them out for what they truly are. I’d love to know if others think I’m being somewhat harsh here. Prove me wrong! Maybe there are other overrated bands Ive missed……..

3 thoughts on “Rockbrat Wonders: Were Talking Heads The Most Overrated Band Of All?

  1. Yes – the Talking Heads were and are massively overrated in every way imaginable. Uninspired warbling vocals combined with cutup lyrics and barely serviceable musicianship. They were a cutesy party band at best. Keep in mind that the punk rock ethos of that time permitted anyone with a guitar or a microphone to front a band which is how we got David Byrne and his band. I saw them back in the day (meaning the 70s) because a music critic friend of mine insisted that they were awesome. When they started their set I actually thought it was a parody band who would depart after a couple of songs and make way for the REAL Talking Heads. But that wasn’t the case. Many in the crowd seemed on the fence at first but the sickening amount of pre-show hype seemed to work it’s way into their brains – They really wanted to be able to tell those not at the show that they had “missed something Really cool”. And after that you couldn’t stop the sycophantic Talking Heads praise if you tried. If you ask a TH fan what they like about the band they can never really give you a specific answer other than to mention trivia like, “well Eno produced them so they MUST be good”. Most critics who liked Talking Heads did so because they themselves looked like Talking Heads. It was just a backlash against long haired rockers and macho punks of the time. People like to see themselves represented so the art nerds hit the jackpot with TH. The only thing worse than TH was David Byrne’s solo project dalliance with Samba music. Even his most ardent supporters had trouble defending that although there were still plenty of sycophants who claimed it was “pure genius”.

  2. This post is basically saying “I don’t like the vocals and the music doesn’t move me” over and over. How exactly does that make the band overrated?

    Regardless of personal taste, the Talking Heads were innovators. Hardly anyone sounded remotely close to them (Devo being the obvious exception). Their mix of nervy rock with disco and scratchy funk stylings paved the way for Gang of Four, Au Pairs, Orange Juice, Liquid Liquid and the dance punk of the 00s. Plus they were one of the few bands of the early CBGB’s scene who developed real musical chops. Their second and third albums are tight as hell, and Remain in Light’s arrangements sound radical to this day.

    Stop Making Sense was when they lost their edge, and subsequent releases (including Byrne’s later solo work) aren’t so magical (although Naked has some brilliant moments). But before that, I would say that Byrne’s work was genius. His creative peak was Remain in Light, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, and The Catherine Wheel.

    The Heads are loved by many, but it’s not like they’re worshiped like Gods. Not underrated. Not overrated. Pretty on point, I’d say.

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