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When I was in high school, I had a friend, Trey, with a funny ritual. Whenever it was one of our mutual friend’s birthdays, he would get everyone together for a surprise party, all of us crouching behind the couch upon which we typically sat for hours of Mario Kart-playing, now holding noisemakers and whispering. The birthday-person would enter from the front door, probably expecting to play some Mario Kart. By this time, Trey had queued up the Talking Heads concert film, Stop Making Sense, to the same place: about 25 seconds into “Burning Down The House,” after the knuckle-whitening introduction of windy synthesizers and tentative guitar.

I can only call what followed pure elation: As the drums do their big fill (which in the film translates to an uncharacteristic stadium-ready crash), you could follow the disarmed broadening of the birthday-person’s mouth, to the bubbling of her chest into laughter, to the loosening of her limbs into dance.

It was a display, as the song itself seems to be, of the indomitability of our friendship at that moment, and though Talking Heads always found themselves seers of some kind of imminent urban collapse, there was always the call to arms, and legs. Through “no visible means of support,” you were somehow “fighting fire with fire.”

When Trey passed away, there was an extreme chasm among this group of people. No one was constantly shoving CDs in our faces, or piping unlistenable guitar sounds into an 8-track recorder to destroy something we had just begun to make beautiful. I got to college full of Can and DNA and Eric Dolphy because of him, and it took me a long time to find peers that understood the polyphony and soul of “Burning Down The House.”

That joyful noise, the moment where you realize you are absolutely being seduced by Talking Heads, is their great victory. They were something very close to what was very popular, yet small and specific, referential but irreverent, constantly puttering along while redoing the interior.

I find myself always getting really close to their music, only to remember how scary and distant Byrne, Weymouth, Harrison, and Frantz can really be. (Listen to “The Overload” only during the day and in the company of others.) These days, I have to remind myself to dance; their music comes very close to fulfilling us the way pop music often does, and then there’s that paranoiac monotone one can’t shake, and we are worried and harried and thinking again.

In the honest pursuit of expressing my exuberance, here are the Talking Heads’ studio albums, worst to best.

Start the Countdown here.

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Comments (51)
  1. Not bad, but top 5′s gotta be

    1. Remain in Light
    2. Fear of Music
    3. Speaking in Tongues
    4. More Songs
    5. 77

  2. why remain in light? i mean, i love it, but its second half is a little rough. fear of music has always been the one that got me over remain in light. i’d switch them. other than that, yeah, dead on.

  3. My personal favorite is Speaking in Tongues, but I don’t expect that to be the popular opinion. That being said, 77 is criminally low on that list. Really surprised by that choice.

  4. In my mind True Stories has to be at the bottom, and I would find it a huge stretch to put it above 77 in particular, top half is pretty solid though. My own personal list would be:

    1. Remain in Light
    2. More Songs
    3. Fear of Music
    4. Speaking in Tongues
    5. 77
    6. Naked
    7. Little Creatures
    8. True Stories

  5. More lists about classic alt bands and complaints from the basements

  6. I’m sure though that something we can all agree on is that “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” is one of the most beautiful songs of all time.

  7. My personal favourite would be Mario Kart: Double Dash, but I mean I can understand why Mario Kart 64 is the more popular one, know what I’m sayin’.

    • I feel Double Dash is a criminally underrated part of the Mario Kart legacy.

      • this is true, they made signifacant graphic improvements, the battle modes were much better and the idea of a side kick riding on the kart was pure genius, hardly gets enough recognition. I would also argue that mario kart wii had excellent game play and the WiiMote controls were superb.

  8. Thanks for this article. Talking Heads are timeless and your love of the band really shows. They’re as difficult of a band to ‘rank’ like this as any other, even limiting yourself just to studio releases (that is, no Stop Making Sense / The Name of this Band is Talking Heads). I was lucky enough to see David Byrne and St. Vincent last year at the Chicago Theater – they played maybe 4-5 of their songs together before suddenly launching into This Must Be The Place. The whole audience INSTANTLY stood in unison and stayed dancing and singing for the rest of the show.

    Oh, and just for fun – subject to change at any given week/day/moment -
    1. Remain in Light
    2. More Songs
    3. Fear of Music
    4. Speaking in Tongues
    5. 77
    6. Little Creatures
    7. True Stories
    8. Naked

  9. You should know that Chris Franz himself linked to this article. You’ve hit the big time!

  10. In the same situation as choosing between Weezer’s Blue Album and Pinkerton, or Bowie’s Low and Station to Station, Fear of Music and Remain in Light are equal in value. Can’t decide!

  11. This is not my beautiful list!

  12. Um….where is Stop Making Sense? And, don’t gimme that “It’s a live album,” BS either. As a sum of its parts, it’s a true achievement.

  13. I haven’t seen the list yet, but the fact that 77 is next to Little Creatures and Naked immediatly gave me a typical WTF face.

  14. List would have been great if 77 were in the top 5 where it belonged. Otherwise, not bad.

    What we really need is a best songs lists. Now that would be interesting.

  15. I’m currently listening to “Don’t worry about the government” so I’m not even mad 77 is only #6

  16. Pretty good rationale for your rankings, though I think Naked stands up to the test of time better than some of the other albums. My rankings (from best to worst) would go as follows:

    1. Remain in Light
    2. Fear of Music
    3. More Songs About Buildings and Food
    4. True Stories
    5. Naked
    6. Speaking in Tongues
    7. Talking Heads: 77
    8. Little Creatures

    While they all have some great songs, I think 77, Tongues and Creatures all suffer from pretty bad producer decisions. It annoys me to think of how good Speaking in Tongues could have been with Brian Eno at the helm.

  17. 1. Remain in Light
    2. Speaking in Tongues (we don’t need no stinkin’ Enos)
    3. Fear of Music
    4. More Songs
    5. All the rest of them…

  18. ‘Listen to “The Overload” only during the day and in the company of others.’ So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong! This is my nighttime alone music…

  19. One of the great joys in my life has been dancing to the first 3 songs on ‘Remain in Light.’

  20. Woah I feel your thoughts on Naked are a little out there man. But yeah the rest of the list isn’t bad.

    Mine:
    1. Fear of Music
    2. More Songs
    3. Speaking in Tongues
    4. Remain in Light
    5. 77
    6. Naked
    7. Little Creatures
    8. True Stories

  21. …….i kinda really like naked.

  22. 1: Remain In Light
    2: Remain In Light
    3: Remain In Light
    4: Remain In Light
    5: Remain In Light

  23. What about Bryan Ferry’s haircuts from worst to best?
    Btw, that’s the worst –

  24. 1. 77
    2. Speaking in Tongues
    3. Remain in Light
    4. Fear of Music
    5. More Songs
    6. Naked
    7. Little Creatures
    8. True Stories

  25. Remain in Light is a perfect album.

  26. It’s ‘Speaking In Tongues’ by a mile!

  27. Am I the only one who thinks Little Creatures is a great album?

  28. More Songs is my #1, then Remain and Fear… Must confess, I’m not familiar with their entire oeuvre.

  29. I hate the fact that “Naked” gets so little respect. The first half of that album, in my opinion, is dynamite. Side two is kind of bland, although I love “Facts of Life.” Stylistically, it’s probably more interesting that anything they had done since “Remain in Light” and is an interesting peek at Byrne’s rising solo career. “True Stories” should be at the bottom. “Love for Sale” and “Puzzlin’ Evidence” are terrific, but that’s where it ends for me. Just sayin.’

  30. Ranking ‘True Stories’ ahead of 77 is a sham. And even though Naked is more like Byrne’s first solo album the the Head’s last, how can you possibly call out Byrne’s use of session musicians when Adrian Belew was the artist whose contribution made ‘Remain in Light’ so vital? Sure, it is the best, though.

  31. True Stories before 77?? Faaaccck you

  32. Why is everyone hating on Little Creatures so much? My personal top 3 would be: Remain in Light, More Songs about Buildings and Food, then Little Creatures.

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