Stop Making Sense

Stop Making Sense ★★★★★

Stop Making Sense opens with David Byrne walking onstage and placing a boombox down. Staring restlessly out into the audience, he begins to sing ‘Psycho Killer’, violently stamping his foot against the floor as if possessed by some irrational fear that the beat will run away from him. The boombox’s machine gun-rhythm blends and grooves with Byrne’s frenzied acoustic guitar and the song’s paranoid lyrics, conveying a feeling of panic only barely held at bay. As the song concludes, Tina Weymouth– the band’s bass guitarist- joins Byrne to perform ‘Heaven’, a cynical ballad about disillusionment with eternal paradise. Slowly but surely, each member of Talking Heads makes their way onto the stage with each consecutive song. Finally, the band’s energy becomes impossible to contain, exploding past its boiling point in ‘Burning Down the House’- the first song to feature the full Talking Heads. The desperate anxiety Byrne first carried onto the stage in ‘Psycho Killer’ is no more, legitimized by the band’s collective presence and obliterated into total ecstasy.

Stop Making Sense represents the highest gold standard for rock concert films. Shot over four nights and realized by the masterful Jonathan Demme (not to mention Blade Runner cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth), Stop Making Sense is an undiluted spectacle of pure energy. Every second of its 88-minute runtime is accounted for and immaculately realized, filmed and edited with a steady acceleration towards musical nirvana. It’s difficult to name a rock concert more aggressively polished and technically perfect, and watching each element of the band’s performance come together is exhilarating. Like many of the most legendary concerts, Stop Making Sense offers a dazzling setlist of the band’s best work, from the paranoid fear of ‘Life During Wartime’ to the middle-class disorientation of ‘Once in a Lifetime’ to the cathartic finale of ‘Take Me to the River’. Each and every song offers a new and exciting spin on its original, and several (read: most) featured during the concert are even stronger than their studio versions.

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