Monday, March 11, 2019


David Byrne's quirkiness made for great, original music during the '70's and '80's with Talking Heads. That same oddball artiness didn't quite work out when he moved into film. After the surprise success of the Stop Making Sense concert film Byrne was given a budget and free reign to make True Stories, the 1986 movie that failed to find an audience. It was a musical comedy set in a fictional town, Vernon, Texas, with a series of stories Byrne took largely from tabloids, imagining what it would be like if these wild yarns were true. Music played a big part, with new songs written by Byrne sung by the actors or himself and Talking Heads. 
There was a full album of the same name by the band that year, a strong seller that included the hit Wild Wild Life. But it wasn't the soundtrack, it was the band versions of the same songs. A soundtrack album was released, but it just included the instrumental portions. For the first time, to coincide with a Blu-ray reissue of the film, the full soundtrack has been compiled, all the songs by the actors, and the incidental music and themes in one place.

The music is better than the movie for sure. The eerie ballad City Of Dreams, the driving Puzzlin' Evidence, and the punchy Love For Sale are all highlight tracks, and Byrne certainly put together a fine set of material, much better than the next and last Talking Heads album, Naked. But having the actors sing didn't always result in appealing versions. Dream Operator, for instance, is a bit annoying sung by Annie McEnroe, when compared to the Heads version. And even a legend, Pop Staples, doesn't really have the right voice for Papa Legba. Surprisingly, John Goodman does a fantastic vocal on the highlight People Like Us, sounding more believable than Byrne delivering this outsider anthem.

As for the instrumental sections, that's a real bonus here, with some very imaginative themes and off-kilter creations. Best are the tracks recorded on a cheesy Casio keyboard, complete with '80's drum machine, meant to be a hip version of Muzak. While it's not overall as strong as the Talking Heads album of the same name, it's a different animal, and as a soundtrack, its really quite novel and enjoyable. You might want to pass on the film, I haven't seen it since it came out, and I can wait another 33 years.

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