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Once In A Lifetime: The Best Of - Talking Heads

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Genre: Indie Rock & Punk - New Wave / Artist: Talking Heads / Audio CD released 1992-10-01 at EMI

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      12.02.2012 15:31
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      A good compilation in its own right, but better ones have been released by now.

      Talking Heads are one of my favourite American bands, favourite New Wave bands - favourite bands, full stop - but their work isn't the easiest to introduce to people, so when all else fails I put on a hits album. Their too-short catalogue of eccentric, eclectic rock produced a few popular hits, conveniently presented in this collection, making it an ideal album for casual listeners and newcomers to the band.

      This is a review of the 1992 14-track edition of "Once in a Lifetime", which has the following tracklist:

      1. Psycho Killer
      2. Take Me to the River
      3. Once in a Lifetime
      4. Burning Down the House
      5. This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)
      6. Slippery People (Live)
      7. Life During Wartime (Live)
      8. And She Was
      9. Road to Nowhere
      10. Wild Wild Life
      11. Blind
      12. (Nothing But) Flowers
      13. Sax and Violins
      14. Lifetime Piling Up

      As with most hits compilations, it's approximately chronological, touching on their early nerdy punkish tinkerings and progressing to their later nerdy funkish anthems. Also like most hits compilations, it's very top-heavy, starting with most of the big favourites and mellowing into latter-day lesser hits. The band's first three albums are skimmed over in favour of these later singles, which seems a shame, but there's still not a bad song on here.

      It's all great clever pop music, fun and funky to listen to but with a sharp underlying intelligence. The band's tight musical chemistry is showcased well here, with Brian Eno's production bringing out the best in them with the lush layerings of "Take Me to the River" and "Once in a Lifetime". Some of David Byrne's finer moments as the poster-boy of post-modern befuddlement are also included, like the underrated "(Nothing but) Flowers" ("There was a shopping mall - now it's all covered with flowers. If this is paradise, I wish I had a lawnmower!"). The live tracks are a welcome addition, taken from their 1984 live performance "Stop Making Sense" (often cited as one of the greatest concert films of all time), and add a burst of raw energy to the album's mid-section.

      As usual with compilation albums, there's one original track, adding some incentive to buy it. In this case, it's "Lifetime Piling Up", exclusive to this best-of (and its U.S. equivalent issue, "Sand in the Vaseline"). It's a great addition to the older material: catchy and fast-paced, but with a brooding, bittersweet undertone that manifests in the lyrics. "I can see my lifetime piling up, reaching from my bedroom to the stars - I can see the house where I was born." It's a winning combination of poignancy and seeming nonsense that Talking Heads do so well.

      Though the track selection isn't the most thorough overall, the whole package feels a bit more substantial than a lot of best-ofs, many of which don't even add content to the liner booklet. Gratifyingly, this album's booklet includes some nice band photographs and, though it has no lyrics, features brief thoughts and anecdotes from the band about the making of each song.

      This is a five-star album if you're not looking for anything more, but my inner pedant can't give it full marks. There are more comprehensive collections available now, such as 2004's "The Best of Talking Heads", an 18-track compilation that evenly samples from each album and compensates for the oversights made by this one. Nonetheless, this remains a solid compilation of songs from an ingenious band, perfect for the casual, the curious, and the fan who just wants to jam to "Burning Down the House" in the car.

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  • Product Details

    Disc #1 Tracklisting
    1 Psycho Killer
    2 Take Me To The River
    3 Once In A Lifetime
    4 Burning Down The House
    5 This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)
    6 Life During Wartime
    7 And She Was
    8 Road To Nowhere
    9 Wild Wild Life
    10 Nothing But Flowers
    11 Sax And Violins
    12 Lifetime Piling Up