Apr 082024
lorde take me to the river

It’s 40 years since a collaboration between Talking Heads and filmmaker Jonathan Demme led to the creation of one of the great concert movies, Stop Making Sense. High concepts, expert musicianship and a big suit cemented it in the minds of a generation. As part of a revival of the film in cinemas and, soon, at home, production owners A24 have curated a tribute album of the songs featured in the movie, to be released later in the year. Lorde has been bold enough to take on “Take Me to the River,” The Talking Heads’ take on the Al Green classic.

The first page of Heads drummer Chris Frantz’s entertaining story of music and love clearly outlines that Al Green was a touchstone for Talking Heads. There were limited models for their combination of art and music, but the inspirations for the music part were clear. The original is a sophisticated and organic expression of the Memphis sound.  The studio version from the Talking Heads is also typical example of the towering edifice of artifice which the band aspired to. Mannered, measured but respectful. The movie version, however, is a different beast. The band returns the song to the revivalist tent, with percussionist Steve Scales taking the role of the cheerleader to Byrne’s preacher, funk royalty providing so much additional drive to the show, from rhythm guitar, percussion, and vocal backing. The gloves, and the big suit, come off for what was the show closer or encore for the band for many years. The band are clearly having fun, immersing themselves in a river of soul music, just about keeping their heads above water.

Lorde pays closer attention to the studio cut of the Talking Heads rather than the original or movie version. It is exquisitely constructed and Lorde’s ethereal presence asks unsettling, rhythmic, questions. It’s unclear why she wants to go to the river, or if she fully does. Lorde notes that when she first saw the Talking Heads version “Humour, lust, rhythm and ritual” coursed through her, and all of that is captured, but there is also some trepidation. Just like a girl who has just been through her Sweet Sixteen party and is looking to a new world.


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