Stop Making Sense

About a month or so ago, I made my first (but hopefully not last) sojourn to Amoeba Music in Hollywood. While I was there, I looked through the used rock section and decided to pick up Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense.”

I like the Heads, but I only know one of their albums (“Little Creatures,” if you’re curious); I didn’t even know that I was buying a soundtrack (more or less) rather than an album. Oh well; I loved the CD anyway.

So it was with some excitement that I popped in a loaned copy (thanks John!) of “Stop Making Sense” into my computer, especially considering that my new favorite Talking Heads song (“Psycho Killer”) opens the show.

But as much as I liked the music (at least the familiar songs), and as well done as the movie is, I didn’t love it.

Part of the problem is just me; I find it incredibly difficult to just sit and listen to music. I live to multi-task, and I can’t focus on just listen to music, so concert films are already at a disadvantage with me. The second problem is from me again; mainly, if I had known more of their music, I would have been more engaged in the film.

All that being said, it’s still a very well done concert film. David Byrne was the center of the band, but he’s not the center of the show. Sure, our eyes are on him for the most part, but “Stop Making Sense” is not a one-man show.

It’s a show about the performance, what it takes to stand up on stage, give yourself over to the music, give yourself up to an audience that loves you with all their hearts.

The coolest trick to the movie (that is sadly repeated too many times) is at the beginning. It’s one man on stage with a guitar; he’s perfectly dressed, he performs his song and keeps his cool as the rest of the stage is put together behind him. Six songs later, and the band is all there, but our singer is sweaty, exhausted, come undone before our eyes. The music builds him up and tears him down, but he still comes back to give us more. Nine more songs, in fact. The structure is both blessing and curse here; it gets old after the first time, and the excitement of David Byrne’s performance gets lost in the repetition.

What killed me on that film is that I just couldn’t sustain the interest in the songs I didn’t know. Fans will (and do already) love “Stop Making Sense,” but it’s probably not for newbies like me. Oh well; I’m off to buy another album; maybe I’ll like “Stop Making Sense” more when I’m a bigger fan.

“Stop Making Sense” (1984)

Directed by Jonathan Demme