True Stories
Talking Heads
1986

Every album Talking Heads released after Stop Making Sense (1984) was a disappointment. How could it have been otherwise? How do you top or even equal a record like that? Only The Beatles created a pop cultural icon and then came back to create a second: Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road.

(The only Beatles competitors I can think of are Bruce Springsteen for Born to Run and Born in the U.S.A. and Pink Floyd for Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. Doubt me on that last one? Even Special D, who would rather go bird-watching in the Mines of Moria than listen to Pink Floyd, just had “Leave those kids alone!” pop into her head.)

True Stories is the music from the film of the same name, directed by David Byrne. It appeared two years after Prince tried to pull off the same trick with Purple Rain. I haven’t seen either of these movies even though my TV remote has a Netflix button. However, I’ve heard all the music. On True Stories, Byrne’s vocals seem cold and detached, but his original plan was to have his actors sing the songs so I won’t subtract points here. But the various ballads and songs of love on this disc turn me off, which is kind of a problem if you’re writing ballads and songs of love, and the closer, “City of Dreams,” drags on like a really boring dream you want to finish so you can get out of bed already and get some breakfast.

On the plus side, I mostly like “Love for Sale” and I would’ve loved “Puzzlin’ Evidence” if it had been an instrumental. I get tired of hearing “puzzlin’ evidence” over and over. And over and over. The one track that broke into the Top 40, “Wild Wild Life” (which shot all the way to #2 in New Zealand), is infectious but might’ve worked out better for Wang Chung.

True Stories is not a bad record – I give it a solid B – but it suffers because of what went before it. That’s not fair but I get paid to be unfair. OK, I’m only pretending that I get paid, but I’m definitely unfair.

As for Purple Rain, for all its faults, it’s more exciting than True Stories and light years sexier. True Stories doesn’t have a Darling Nikki, who enjoys a good grind.

Random 1986 Could Go Either Way of the Day
The Mission U.K., God’s Own Medicine
They were called The Mission in the U.K. and The Mission U.K. in the U.S. I don’t know what they were called in the U.S.S.R. Their music was perfect if you were a moody teenager who came home from school and locked yourself in your room so you could be all moody.

Rhapsody calls them “goth’s answer to The Monkees.” Allmusic.com describes them as “pompous, melodramatic, and bombastic.” Why are they being so mean? The answer is right at the beginning of this record, when singer/guitarist Wayne Hussey intones, “I still believe in God, but God no longer believes in me.”

If you like The Cure and The Cult, two moody English bands that hit it big, you might like their younger, less-talented but moderately OK brethren, The Mission.

Random 1986 Pan of the Day
The Dead Milkmen, Eat Your Paisley
This album’s a snore, but the Milkmen had a knack for titles, from the name of their band to “The Thing That Only Eats Hippies.” R.E.M. could only dream of being so witty.

Comments
  1. Michael Eichner says:

    From The Rocky Horror Picture Show to The Banger Sisters; a musical journey with Susan Sarandon.

  2. Michael Eichner says:

    Well done to note the inequity of comparing a greatest hits concert recording to a soundtrack album. And even there, all soundtracks are not created equal. How does one compare original compositions like True Stories, Tommy, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shaft, and Superfly with the reused compilation style soundtracks of Pretty In Pink, Pulp Fiction, Valley Girl, The Wedding Singer, and Singles?

    But I get side tracked by sound tracks. All I really wanted to do was recommend seeing the movie ‘True Stories.’ I found it exquisitely dry, pleasingly odd, and funny. Me thinks you might like.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      This is a deeper topic than I had suspected, Frostybooboo. Comparing movies with original compositions to movies that use other artists’ songs sounds like a PhD thesis. I will say that I can still remember how excited I was to read about Tommy in Rolling Stone in the months before it was released, that Rocky Horror still makes me quiver with antici…ok I’ll say it…pation, that Superfly has a better soundtrack than Shaft but Shaft of course has the song that will reverberate through the corridors of time, and that the odds of my watching True Stories aren’t good but at least you’ve put it on my list of possibles. It wasn’t there before.

      Valley Girl, Pretty in Pink, and Singles present an interesting contrast with Pulp Fiction and The Wedding Singer. The first three use music that was happening at the time the movie was made. The second two use music that was made years before to create a retro mood. That’s probably why I like the first three better. BTW, thanks for mentioning Valley Girl. The musical lineup on that disc is very uneven, but when it’s good, it’s high-altitude good.

      A movie you didn’t mention: The Banger Sisters (2002). The movie and the soundtrack are like totally lame. AllMusic.com delivers this verdict: “The only decent songs on here are Talking Heads ‘Burning Down the House’ and Peter Frampton’s languid and gritty new song ‘Hour of Need.’ No disrespect to Frampton, but when he is the highlight of a collection, you’ve got trouble.”

  3. Michael Eichner says:

    Sir, you are not “unfair,” simply ignorant. Listening to a soundtrack without seeing the movie is analogous to judging a book by its cover and blurb. The songs on True Stories are not intended to stand alone, but serve as the background and counter point to the images of the film. True Stories is not a musical. Once you’ve watched True Stories (or Purple Rain), then you may trash them with validity and guilt free abandon. Just sayin’.

    P.S. – In 2001, The Mission was still as “pompous, melodramatic, and bombastic” as any performance Bono has ever put out there. Embarrassing – yes.Totally awesome – definitely.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Sir, I am indeed unfair, and I’m ignorant of a lot of things, but I think soundtracks can exist just fine without their movies. I like the soundtrack to The Crow quite a bit, but there’s no way I’m going to rent what looks like a self-absorbed gothfest. I loved the soundtrack to Glory long before I saw the film, which is nowhere near as good as its music. I like the soundtrack to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and because I’ve seen the movie I know that the soundtrack leaves so much out it’s as if they made it for a different movie. But maybe we’re talking about two different things. True Stories has all the songs but I’ll bet it has none of what they call the incidental music. Maybe some movies have music but some movies are musicals. I’m going to throw this open to my readers.
      P.S. – I’m happy to hear that The Mission has stayed in character!

      • Run-DMSteve says:

        It also occurs to me that it’s unfair to compare any Talking Heads album to ‘Stop Making Sense’ because the latter isn’t a compilation of new songs, it’s a greatest-hits package. Also that ‘The Crow’ is more of a self-absorbed metal/gothfest than a self-absorbed gothfest. See, I’m a little bit fair. But still ignorant in plenty of ways.

  4. Barb says:

    OK this has nothing to do with Talking Heads (no comment there because I agree with you), but when you mentioned The Mission UK, I had a random synapse blip, and it made me think of Re-Flex. Now I’ve got an ear worm going for “The Politics of Dancing” — classic 1980s vibe! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eabefjsJsAQ

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      That was one of my favorite 45s. It’s so self-important — and yet it’s so much fun. “The politics of dancing/the politics of oooOOOoooOOOO feelin’ good!” I like the idea of politicians becoming djs. If only!

  5. Sherry says:

    Try King Crimson in the 80s then. That will help. The voice is there.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      This is one of the most original comments this blog has received. Most devotees of prog rock cite King Crimson from the ’70s. (I just checked and I see that their debut was all the way back in 1969.) But the ’80s?? They’d already had approximately 1,000 lineup changes by then, which is almost as many as Yes. I didn’t even know that King Crimson had made any records in the ’80s. I assumed that they had all died, or had been shipped to the North Pole. Maybe I was just in denial? Turns out they’re still recording! Can’t this be stopped?

      My favorite things about King Crimson are: a) people who leave this band become rich by joining bands that are really bad (Bad Company, Asia, Foreigner, Emerson, Lake & Palmer), and b) on their first album, ‘Larks Tongues in Aspic,’ they have a song called “I Talk to the Wind,” an approach to life that pretty much brings things to a crashing halt for me….All right, I’ll go listen to King Crimson in the ’80s. But only for you.

  6. Sherry says:

    Who is this wife in my beautiful house?

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