I went through a bit of a “Spring Cleaning” phase recently (I know it’s Winter, don’t judge me!) where I browsed my various catalogues of favourite albums to see if I’d missed any glaring ones on my blog – and I have!
“Speaking in Tongues” is in my top 3 favourite Talking Heads albums, and it’s probably in my top 100 favourite ever. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t done it yet! Luckily there are only 9 songs on it, so it shouldn’t take long. How would I rank all the songs on this funky fresh masterpiece of 80s Pop?
You can check out my other related lists below, including some of my other Talking Heads rankings:
9 – Swamp
This one feels wrong to rank so low, as it made a memorable appearance on the “Stop Making Sense” tour … but I’ve never really dug this track.
It’s growly, it’s groovy, and yet it’s never really resonated with me. Maybe it’s the low vocals, or just that the subject matter is a mundane swamp, but I’ve never clicked with it.
That being said, this is still a perfectly serviceable track that I would never skip. I think “Speaking in Tongues” may even be the most consistent album in Talking Heads’ discography – even above the big two!
8 – Pull up the Roots
That sliding synth sound at the start is what I remember most from this track, but Byrne’s erratic vocals are always a plus.
I guess it isn’t the most memorable melody or verse, but the choruses have that Talking Heads flair that I love.
7 – I Get Wild / Wild Gravity
With a wild / wild groove and a catchy melody, this is one of those Talking Heads songs that does the job. It also has some pretty funny lyrics too, so that’s a bonus.
6 – Moon Rocks
I think this is one of the more underrated Talking Heads songs, there’s just something about the infectious groove that makes me want to dance.
“Moon Rocks” also has a killer pre-chorus / chorus combo, with some really ethereal yet beautiful vocals from Byrne.
5 – Making Flippy Floppy
Byrne at his craziest and strangest (at least lyrically), and as a result “Making Flippy Floppy” ends up being a Talking Heads classic.
It was made all the better in the “Stop Making Sense” tour, where Byrne somehow got even wackier for the live performance.
4 – Girlfriend Is Better
These last four tracks have a good shout at being Talking Heads’ best post-RIL efforts, even surpassing key tracks like “Wild Wild Life” and “Nothing But Flowers” (but not quite “Road to Nowhere”, that track still slaps).
I’ll never forget Byrne’s ridiculously huge outfit during the live performances – his inflated shoulders make for possibly the most iconic Talking Heads image ever, and Kanye West even copied it for a music video of his own.
3 – Slippery People
Alongside “Psycho Killer”, “Slippery People” might just be the best bassline in Talking Heads’ discography – Tina Weymouth’s skills are what inspired me to pick up the bass in the first place, and those two tracks are the main reasons I’m still rocking the four-string.
A huge amount of credit has to go to everyone else though, as the drums, synths and vocals are all on point. I particularly love Byrne’s gospel-esque chorus parts, it really adds another dimension to the whole thing.
2 – Burning Down the House
The only Talking Heads song to break into the top 10 of the charts, “Burning Down the House” was their main attraction for years – until a whole new generation of fans realised that their back-catalogue had so many gems.
Easily the catchiest and most “mainstream” song on the record, the lyrics and melodies instantly entrance you with the simplicity yet mysterious undertones. The music video is also pretty hilarious too, check it out.
1 – This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)
“Naïve Melody” is a very apt title for this 80s classic, as there really isn’t much going on musically. It’s one of the simplest yet effective musical compositions I’ve ever heard, and the fact it still stands as one of the best songs ever is a testament to the band’s efforts and Byrne’s endearing lyrics.
Byrne has said that he tried to write a love song for the first time ever, and in typical Talking Heads fashion the lyrics are full of non-sequiturs that make hardly any sense – but that’s what’s so magical about it. This is one of the greatest love ballads of all time, and proof that Talking Heads could do it all.
Aaaaaand that’s my list. You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:
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