Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

THE BEST SIDE ONE WE’VE EVER HEARD — BAR NONE! I will stop short of awarding it more than three pluses, because the recording certainly has its share of limitations, but never before have we heard these songs sound so BIG, BOLD and ALIVE! Side two is darn good as well, rating a very strong A++. If you thought you’d never hear a truly great pressing of this album, here’s the copy that will prove you wrong!

This side one does it all. We’re crazy about this album — we’ve done this shootout many times and found some really exceptional copies, but I don’t remember ever hearing a side one quite like this. The top end is extended and sweet, the bottom end is big and punchy, and the overall sound is as rich and full-bodied as you could expect from this zany art-rock. Side two misses just a bit of the energy of side one, but it’s still much better than the average copy.

The vocals have the kind of presence that put David Byrne right there in your living room, and not under a blanket or behind the speakers as on a majority of pressings we’ve played.

You’ve got to play a whole lot of copies to find one with this kind of energy, clarity, and high resolution. The kick drum is really punchy, the synths and organ sound incredible, and the vocals sound just right.

The bass on this copy is the best we’ve heard for More Songs — tight, punchy, and as deep as it’s ever gonna get. We sure wouldn’t mind if some of the tracks were mixed with a bit more punch to the bottom end, but far be it from us to tell Brian Eno and Rhett Davies how to do their jobs! At least on this copy, the bass has the kind of power that brings a song like Take Me To A River to heights you probably wouldn’t have imagined before.

Key Test Tracks for Sides One and Two

One of our tests for side one was the song With Our Love. The rhythmic guitar picking in the intro told us just about everything we needed to know. On most copies, all of the information become blurry and mushed together. You couldn’t tell a bass guitar from a hole in the ground. When you’ve got a copy that’s doing what it should, you get all of the elements sitting happily in their own places making a wide and articulate sound stage.

My other for side one test track was Warning Signs. This is a great track for hearing transparency and bass. On the average copy, you’d probably never know how much ambience exists around the drums. Also, the bass guitar can come in a variety of ways on this track. Some copies make it dull and blurry, which is no fun. Other copies make it very punchy and tight, which sounds great, but doesn’t make it hit you in the chest. Our favorite copies have a good amount of WHOMP, giving the bass guitar that rich, beefy sound that we’re simply crazy for here at Better Records.

A great test for side two is Artists Only. The guitars in the intro section are almost unbearable to listen to on most copies. I recognize that I am sensitive to harsh high frequencies, but I’m literally in pain when I listen to an overly compressed, overly midrangey copy. There’s got to be a better way! Wait, there is. Find a copy that actually has a sweet top end. It makes all the difference.

One of the best sounding tracks on here is the great cover of Al Green’s Take Me To The River — but only on a great copy like this one. Most copies are very skimpy with the amount of bottom end information you get. Pay attention to the opening before the keys start. Great pressings give you texture on the bass that you really don’t find on the average. When everything’s working right, you’ll also hear ambience around the organs that’s nowhere to be found on most pressings.

Top Notch ’70s Art Rock

I don’t think these guys ever put together a better group of songs. The ultimate pressings of Little Creatures go a step further sonically, but the best copies of this one can sound incredible, if not quite Demo Disc worthy.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Thank You for Sending Me an Angel
With Our Love
The Good Thing
Warning Sign
The Girls Want to Be with the Girls
Found a Job

Side Two

Artists Only
I’m Not in Love
Stay Hungry
Take Me to the River
The Big Country

Allmusic 5 Star Review

The title of Talking Heads’ second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food, slyly addressed the sophomore record syndrome, in which songs not used on a first LP are mixed with hastily written new material. If the band’s sound seems more conventional, the reason simply may be that one had encountered the odd song structures, staccato rhythms, strained vocals, and impressionistic lyrics once before.

Another was that new co-producer Brian Eno brought a musical unity that tied the album together, especially in terms of the rhythm section, the sequencing, the pacing, and the mixing. Where Talking Heads had largely been about David Byrne’s voice and words, Eno moved the emphasis to the bass-and-drums team of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz; all the songs were danceable, and there were only short breaks between them.

Byrne held his own, however, and he continued to explore the eccentric, if not demented persona first heard on 77, whether he was adding to his observations on boys and girls or turning his ‘Psycho Killer’ into an artist in ‘Artists Only.’ Through the first nine tracks, More Songs was the successor to 77, which would not have earned it landmark status or made it the commercial breakthrough it became.

It was the last two songs that pushed the album over those hurdles. First there was an inspired cover of Al Green’s ‘Take Me to the River’; released as a single, it made the Top 40 and pushed the album to gold-record status.

Second was the album closer, ‘The Big Country,’ Byrne’s country-tinged reflection on flying over middle America; it crystallized his artist-vs.-ordinary people perspective in unusually direct and dismissive terms, turning the old Chuck Berry patriotic travelogue theme of rock & roll on its head and employing a great hook in the process.