Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
If you haven’t been aware of the story of Talking Heads getting back together, I guess you may have been on another planet, such was the publicity. Given they didn’t even play anything, grouping only to talk and be interviewed, this shows quite the lasting appeal of this band, and gives some idea of the delight forthcoming if they actually did pick up their musical gear.
The occasion was the polished up re-release of Jonathan Demme’s concert film of the band in their prime, 1984’s Stop Making Sense. You know, the big suit and all of that. Because the break-up of the band was so famously dysfunctional, any previous talk of the foursome ever meeting up again was deemed well nigh impossible, such the apparent lasting ill-feeling between de facto band leader David Byrne and the other three, constructively dismissed at the end of the road, or as near as. Literally so, it being at the end of a tour. Many words have been spoken: drummer, Chris Frantz has said a fair bit in his memoir, Remain In Love. Yet, as they grouped around a table in Toronto this fall, all seemed sweet and contrite, even as they carefully dodged questions around any more working together. (So they didn’t deny it, shout all the fanbase! We shall see…..)
“Burning Down the House” was one of their biggies, their only Billboard top 10 single. Based on the skeleton of a studio jam between Frantz and his wife, bass player Tina Weymouth, its evolution had David Byrne chanting nonsense lyrics, designed more to fit the scan, than to make any sense, and Jerry Harrison, the 4th Head, adding choppy synthesizer stabs. And, yes, of course it was in the film, if somewhat expanded and adapted, featuring Weymouth on synth bass. It was and remains a consummate snapshot of what the band were then doing, applying a remarkable meshwork capture of jittery post-punk new wave energy, funky dance club rhythms and emergent afro stylings.
But, are there, I wonder, any other ways of gilding this lily?