Insane energy. Ridiculously great.
Stop Making Sense captures the enormous energy and joyous highs of the Talking Heads live performance. Band members David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz and Jerry Harrison are joined by Bernie Worrell, Alex Weir, Steve Scales, Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt in this groundbreaking concert film that is packed with the Talking Heads most memorable songs.
Directed by Jonathan Demme.
You gots to love those Talking Heads & David Byrne!!!
In 1984, Johnathan Demme and the Talking Heads defied all logic when they released the ultimate concert documentary, Stop Making Sense - a film that follows the titular instruction. The eccentric rock group, Talking Heads, performed with unequaled stage presence and unimaginable energy. The result is a suave and absurd tribute to non-conformist music. Anyone who considers the Talking Heads to be uninteresting will surely return with their opinions reversed.
Stop Making Sense begins on an empty stage. David Bryne then enters, carrying a guitar and a tape deck. He announces that he’d like to play a song. After pressing play, a steady drum beat emerges from the taper deck and Bryne commences to strum his guitar alongside the beat. Thus begins a bewildering and fantastic rendition of the classic Talking Heads song “Psycho Killer”, with Bryne charging back and forth around the stage, bouncing up and down to the musical joy being expressed on the stage. One by one, the diverse array of band members step onto the stage, each arriving one song the other until the stage is full of talented musicians ready to perform the concert of a lifetime. Whether it be for the music itself, the energy exhibited by the Talking Heads or the various stage vignettes, everyone will find a reason to enjoy Stop Making Sense .
Despite its grand originality and exuberant pacing, Stop Making Sense doesn’t use the fact that it’s a movie to enhance itself in any way. Why dabble in the medium of cinema if all you intend to do is hit record and cut every now and then? Needless to say, seeing Stop Making Sense performed live on stage would be infinitely superior to seeing it as a movie. That’s assumed, because the energy cannot be conveyed through a camera that same way, but also because this concert documentary specifically does not make up for the loss of energy. Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones concert doc, Shine A Light used fantastic camerawork, intimacy, back stage scenes and archival footage to make Shine A Light as entertaining as the concert it documents. Stop Making Sense seems to forget it’s a movie, and to be fair, at times so do we.
While it may not use the camera to its advantage, Stop Making Sense does a fair bit with the use of stage stunts and gags. The highlight is a very iconic scene where Bryne emerges clad in a gigantic suit. This provides the viewer with the illusion that he has a minutely-sized head. Bryne proceeds to prance and dance around the stage, performing his musical routine, only with the encumbrance of a huge suit. The sight is irregular and amusing as it manages to stop making sense. Now, bands replicate the style of this theatrical humour displayed by the Talking Heads, but imitation does not wither the original performance, it only makes the obvious more apparent: the Talking Heads accomplished their goal of making excellent music while standing out from every other band out there.
The 80s were among the worst decades for music, as it initiated the transformation where popular music became unoriginal and uninteresting. In the decades prior, popular music felt fresh and innovative. From The Beatles to Bob Dylan, true musical masterminds were being appreciated and recognized for their approaches. In the 80s, materialism took over the music industry with an even tighter grip than before, blocking out almost all space for true talent. As far as I’m concerned, Stop Making Sense is an attack on the mediocrity adopted by the mainstream. Talking Heads made music like no others, and are among the standouts from the 80s as they avoided conventionality. Much like a mother bird calling to its young-lings, Stop Making Sense shouts out to musicians worldwide to do their own thing. Stop making sense. Stop making cents. Start making music.
A great - if not the best - concert film. An excellent entry point for those unfamiliar with Talking Heads.
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