Talking heads are one of those bands that come around once every generation. Formed in the midst of the punk scene in New York, the band created their sound over more than a decade and were pioneers in New Wave. They’ve made 8 albums of various quality, but how would I rank them?
I explain my ranking system here:
You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack, you may find yourself in another part of the world, you may find yourself reading the rest of this list …
8 – True Stories
This was a complete misfire from everyone involved.
You can kind of tell Talking Heads were beginning to fall apart, and when the time came to record a movie soundtrack to David Byrne’s film “True Stories”, it seems like they kind of just threw this mess together.
“Wild Wild Life” is the only stand-out, and the rest range from meh to straight up bad. Apparently Radiohead got their name from the song “Radio Head”, so bonus points to that track.
- Best Song – Wild Wild Life
- Worst Song – Hey Now
- Underrated Gem – City of Dreams
7 – Little Creatures
A little disappointing after the success of “Speaking in Tongues” and the subsequent tour “Stop Making Sense”, but a solid effort nonetheless.
I originally thought this record would come under “Meh” or even “Bad”, but there’s no denying how catchy some of these tunes are. “And She Was” is a great opener, “Road to Nowhere” is a great closer, and some inbetween songs like “Creatures of Love” and “Television Man” have that Talking Heads flair. If I had to bit an underrated song, I’d give it to “The Lady Don’t Mind”.
- Best Song – Road to Nowhere
- Worst Song – Give Me Back My Name
- Underrated Gem – The Lady Don’t Mind
6 – Talking Heads ’77
Talking Heads’ first record is filled with erratic goodness. They really hit the ground running with tracks like “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town” and “Pulled Up”. In their first album, they managed to release one of the best songs of all time “Psycho Killer”, and for that song alone this album makes it into the “Good” category.
“No Compassion” is a highly underrated song, but it can’t save the rest of the record from some sub-par outings. “First Week / Last Week … Carefree” is a forgettable track, and “Happy Day” might be the worst song they’ve ever released. Good album though.
- Best Song – Psycho Killer
- Worst Song – Happy Day
- Underrated Gem – No Compassion
5 – Naked
I can understand why a lot of people don’t like this album, but I just think some of the songs on it are so cool.
Tracks like “Blind” and “(Nothing But) Flowers” are up there with the band’s best, and if “Sax and Violins” was an actual song on the album rather than a bonus track it would have won the “Best Song” category.
Still, each Talking Heads album comes with its flaws, and tracks like “Bill” and especially “Facts of Life” are painful listening. On the whole, slightly underrated album.
- Best Song – (Nothing But) Flowers
- Worst Song – Facts of Life
- Underrated Gem – Totally Nude
4 – More Songs About Buildings And Food
This a classic follow-up album in that it does everything better than its predecessor.
The record opens with a bang with “Thank You for Sending me an Angel”, and it only gets better from there. “The Good Thing”, “Found A Job” and “The Big Country” are just some of the great tracks on this album.
Best song has to go to the incredibly catchy “Take Me to the River”, which was the band’s first hit. Other than that, “Warning Sign” is a highly underrated song in their catalogue. If I had to pick a worst I’d choose “The Girl Wants to Be with the Girls”, but even that track is quite good.
- Best Song – Take Me to the River
- Worst Song – The Girl Wants to Be with the Girls
- Underrated Gem – Warning Sign
3 – Speaking in Tongues
This is ’80s Talking Heads at their best.
Part of the reason why this album is so highly regarded is the use of most of the songs on their “Stop Making Sense” tour, and for that tour alone this album comes under “Amazing”.
“Burning Down the House” was their only top 10 hit (how?!?), “Slippery People” might just be their coolest song, and “Moon Rocks” is an underrated gem. “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” has a good shout at being their best song ever, and it’s definitely a top 5 for sure. The only one I’m not too fond of it “Swamp”, maybe because it’s dark tone contrasts how bubbly the rest of the record sounds.
- Best Song – This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
- Worst Song – Swamp
- Underrated Gem – Moon Rocks
2 – Fear of Music
The fact that Talking Heads have two albums in “All-Time Great” is pretty impressive, but they deserve it.
To start a great album you need a great track, and “I Zimbra” provides a manic energy that sustains throughout the record.
This album is just banger after banger – except maybe “Electric Guitar”. “Heaven” and “Life During Wartime” are top 10 Talking Heads songs at least, and “Mind” and “Drugs” are some of the trippiest songs I’ve ever heard. Praise be to Byrne and Eno.
- Best Song – Heaven
- Worst Song – Electric Guitar
- Underrated Gem – Mind
1 – Remain in Light
One of my favourite albums of all time, “Remain in Light” is the band’s masterpiece.
Talking Heads’ final collaboration with Brian Eno saw them creating an Afro-beat sensation, with tracks like “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” and “The Great Curve” being some of their best group efforts ever.
Their crowning achievement has to be “Once in a Lifetime”, which I consider to be the greatest song ever made. The second half of the album slows it down a bit, and “Listening Wind” is a bit too weird for this album, but the record ends perfectly with the foreboding “The Overload”. I just want to say thank you to everyone involved for making such a breath-taking album.
- Best Song – Once in a Lifetime
- Worst Song – Listening Wind
- Underrated Gem – The Overload
And that’s it. Check out some of my other lists below: