[Review] Talking Heads: Popular Favorites: Sand in the Vaseline (1992)

A career-spanning compilation of the Heads’ best shots, plus four new cuts at the end.

KM 11.0: Have a wholly jelly Christmas.

We’re here not to bury the Heads in the sand, but to pays them. The double-disc Favorites sealed the story (close to Christmas) on one of modern rock’s most titanic talents, tacking on two early demos and four new old tracks. “Sugar On My Tongue,” “Sax And Violins,” you gotta hear them. All that sweet stuff in the middle isn’t bad either, an intricate honeycombed hive of anti-conservative activity. As for the packaging, well, the writing Heads aren’t as interesting; everything they have to say is in the music: the government is sneaky, love is a chemical reaction, the little child is always itching to get out of the adult.

Even in the end (1992), the world still needed them, if only to take us all down a peg by rhyming “tootsie roll” with “heinie hole.” The first time ‘round this review, I wasted my time talking about what should and shouldn’t be on here. It all belongs here, of course, every scratchy note, funky groove and frightened yelp. And, yes, you’re still on the hook to buy most of it, especially Fear of Music and Remain In Light. There’s nothing from The Name of This Band, which is the only obvious omission, and tracks from the solo albums would have been a kindness, but this is all about the Heads’ last stand; no one’s trying to make a case for what a great band they were because no one has to anymore.

Popular Favorites wasn’t very in the US, maybe because we were still angry with them for leaving. Or maybe Nirvana just blinded the world to everything before it, hard to say. For future generations, who may only know the Heads from grainy videos, these guys were the original fly in the ointment of ordinariness, and Popular Favorites provides a futuristic past present you must unwrap.

Read more Talking Heads reviews

Original 2CD version

Disc One
A1. Sugar on My Tongue (David Byrne) (2:34)
A2. I Want to Live (David Byrne) (3:22)
A3. Love -> Building on Fire (David Byrne) (2:56)
A4. I Wish You Wouldn’t Say That (David Byrne) (2:31)
A5. Psycho Killer (David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Tina Weymouth) (4:19)
A6. Don’t Worry About the Government (David Byrne) (3:00)
A7. No Compassion (David Byrne) (4:47)
A8. Warning Sign (David Byrne/Chris Frantz) (3:55)
A9. The Big Country (David Byrne) (5:30)
A10. Take Me to the River (Al Green/Mabon Hodges) (5:00)
A11. Heaven (David Byrne/Jerry Harrison) (4:01)
A12. Memories Can’t Wait (David Byrne/Jerry Harrison) (3:30)
A13. I Zimbra (David Byrne/Brian Eno/Hugo Ball) (3:06)
A14. Once in a Lifetime (David Byrne/Brian Eno/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (4:19)
A15. Crosseyed and Painless (David Byrne/Brian Eno/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (4:45)
A16. Burning Down the House (David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (4:00)
A17. Swamp (David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (5:09)
A18. This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody) (David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (4:56)

Disc Two
B1. Life During Wartime (live) (David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (5:03)
B2. Girlfriend Is Better (live) (David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (3:32)
B3. And She Was (David Byrne, arr. by David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (3:36)
B4. Stay Up Late (David Byrne, arr. by David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (3:51)
B5. Road to Nowhere (David Byrne, arr. by David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (4:19)
B6. Wild Wild Life (David Byrne) (3:39)
B7. Love for Sale (David Byrne) (4:30)
B8. City of Dreams (David Byrne) (5:06)
B9. Mr. Jones (lyrics by David Byrne, music by David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (4:18)
B10. Blind (lyrics by David Byrne, music by David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (4:58)
B11. (Nothing But) Flowers (lyrics by David Byrne, music by David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (5:32)
B12. Sax and Violins (lyrics by david Byrne, music by David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (5:18)
B13. Gangster of Love (lyrics by David Byrne, music by David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) ( 4:28)
B14. Lifetime Piling Up (lyrics by David Byrne, music by David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (3:59)
B15. Popsicle (lyrics by David Byrne, music by David Byrne/Chris Frantz/Jerry Harrison/Tina Weymouth) (5:19)

The Players

David Byrne (guitar, vocals, bass, vocoder, keyboards, mini moog), Chris Frantz (drums, timbales), Jerry Harrison (guitars, keyboards, clavinet, synthesizer), Tina Weymouth (bass, synth bass, keyboard) with Tawatha Agee (background vocals), Wally Badarou (keyboards), Brad Baker (horn arrangement), Moussa Cisskao (congas), Nina Gioia (timbales, percussion), Nona Hendryx (background vocals), Phoebe Holmes (background vocals), Dolette McDonald (background vocals), Arlene Newsome (background vocals), Lance Quinn (horn arrangement), Steve Scales (percussion), Brice Wassy (percussion, cowbells, shakers), Alex Weir (guitar). Engineered by Butch Jones, Nick Launay, Richard Manwaring, Ed Stasium; overdub engineered by Fernando Kral; mixed by Kevin Killen, Nick Launay.

The Pictures

Art direction/design by Olinsky/Gorman – Manhattan Design. Cover art by Ed Ruscha. Photography by Acme Photography, Hugh Brown, David Byrne, John Dalton, Jimmy Desana, Marcia Resnick, Ebet Roberts, Dilly Shelton, Wynnewood Recreation Center.

The Plastic

Released on 2CD and 2CS* in October 1992 in the US (Sire, 26760) and Europe (EMI, 80466); reached #7 on the UK charts and #158 on the US charts. (*Double cassette features only 28 tracks.)

Popular Favorites Disc Two cover
Popular Favorites Disc Two cover

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