Time hasn't been kind to Talking Heads' ancillary soundtrack to David Byrne's oddball directorial debut. Though it generated one of the band's biggest radio hits ("Wild Wild Life"), both the film and its songs were dismissed as self-consciously quirky retreads of other, better material; and it's well-known the quartet was beginning to splinter apart around the time of the sessions. Byrne himself has said that he regretted the whole notion of releasing True Stories with his own vocals, a decision made at the behest of the film's financial backers: All along, he intended for the lyrics to be sung, in character, by Pops Staples, John Goodman, and the rest of the cast. (Some of these alternate-vocal versions were eventually released as B-sides.) Despite its perfunctory nature, however, True Stories is not without its charms. Though an obvious swipe at consumerism, "Love for Sale" boasts one of the band's best hooks, and it's easily their hardest-rocking tune since the Fear of Music days. "Radio Head" is a successful continuation of some of the regional-American motifs Byrne explored on Little Creatures (and bears the distinction of inspiring Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and company to name their band after it). Free from the movie's weird patina of irony, "Dream Operator" is one of the most affecting tunes Talking Heads ever recorded; the closing-credits theme "City of Dreams" is similarly touching. Elsewhere, there is filler -- touching upon gospel, country-western, zydeco, and sundry other Byrne influences -- but the band's skill at arranging an album and maintaining a mood remains intact. So while True Stories may remain a regrettable chapter in the band's history, it's certainly not an embarrassing one.
True Stories Review
by Michael Hastings