Tuesday, April 08, 2008

City of Dreams

Song: City of Dreams
Artist: Talking Heads
Album: True Stories

I could still count how old I was on one hand when I entered the 80’s, I didn’t have MTV, and I literally grew up in the woods. So how was it then, that I had the Talking Heads on my radar… they certainly didn’t have huge chart success. (“Burning Down the House” was their biggest hit here, which went to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.) Whatever it was, they were just always there in a way, but I only probably knew a song here and a song there. It wasn’t until I was in college that I finally got some Heads… their two disc career retrospective “Sand in the Vaseline: Popular Favorites” which was a great primer to an amazing band. I recently obtained their entire discography, and listened to it all the way through… which was daunting, but totally enjoyable.

If you’re not familiar, the Talking Heads were an American rock band formed in New York City in the late 70’s. They, along with the Ramones and Blondie, were early figureheads at CBGB’s, and the band is widely regarded as one of the best new wave bands of the day. They broke up in 1991, but their legacy and music have lived on. Their mix of punk rock, funk, world music, and art rock was before its time and no doubt helped forge the ground that Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and the recent Vampire Weekend debut used in melding rock, art, and world rhythms together.

After listening to their entire discography for the first time I have become more impressed, and more of a fan. Their really isn’t a bad album within their canon and REALLY recommend getting into their music if you haven’t done so yet. There are literally four choices in which to have yourself introduced to the band, depending on the size of your wallet.

For a cheap, single disc collection that skims their entire career you should pick up “The Best of Talking Heads.” But I would seriously think of spending just a bit more and getting the double-disc “Sand in the Vaseline.” It worked for me. Though if you think you have even more interest in the band, but aren’t up for getting every disc, the three disc plus DVD collection “Once in a Lifetime” which includes some rarities, an expanded version of their music video collection, and well… just MORE. But if you really want to dive into this amazing band you can get all eight albums in the “Brickbox set which included all of their studio albums.

“True Stories” is an odd album for Talking Heads as it is sort of a soundtrack to lead Head David Byrne’s directorial debut of the same name. Though in the movie the actors sing the songs themselves, where the band performs the record themselves. Because of the context, I would say of all of their album sit is the least focus… though contains some of my favorite songs. “Wild Wild Life” is pure pop joy, “People Like Us” is Byrne’s idea of a country and western epic ballad, and “Radio Head,” aside from being the origin of that big band from the UK, is also a world party sing-a-long that seems to include everyone.

For me the highlight is the album closer “City of Dreams,” which seems to be about history, and the acknowledgement (or denial) of those that came before you. It’s a beautiful, beautiful song that gets under your skin, and one that changes for me. At times I have heard this as a call to survival in a difficult urban environment, or simply just about America, its vast highways and repeated insistence to disregard the past and those we have left behind to build our own “now.”

This song certainly doesn’t sum up the band in any way; it’s just a killer song.

“We live in the city of dreams, and we drive on this highway of fire.”


Once in a Lifetime

Burning Down the House

What the film is like…

I love the lying woman.


Lizzy said...

I love the Talking Heads!! I saw David Byrne at the Hollywood Bowl a couple years ago and he sang Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" (reading from a sheet at his feet) - amazing! I am also recently hooked on the song "This must be the place" after I saw "Lars and the Real Girl".

Mike M said...

Thanks brother, I really like that movie and the music- favorite part is the capitalism dinner table with Spalding Gray.

For my money, I'd go with "The Name of this band is Talking Heads"- one of the best live albums ever made. Shows the tightness of the four piece band and the expansiveness of the expanded band. Way better than Stop Making Sense.

I am sort of biased on this band and D. Byrne- saw them live about 6times before 1980.