While official Warner Bros. compilations of the Heads' mind-bending, envelope-pushing videos allow for a glimpse of the art-rock band at its most creative, this 18-track disc is the next best thing to catching them live outside of Jonathan Demmes Stop Making Sense, of course.
Chronology kicks off with a 1976 mic test that captures young David Byrne as disheveled and lanky as ever, making him look like a dead ringer for Italian horror director Dario Argento. After a couple of messy performances in fuzzed-out black-and-white at the legendary CBGB, sparks of the genius to come erupt in a 1975 acoustic rendering of Psycho Killer.
The proceedings burst into color on track seven with the satirical "Don't Worry About the Government," in which Byrnes voice charmingly breaks at the final "meeeeeeee." The band really comes together on "Thank You for Sending Me an Angel, recorded at New York Citys Entermedia Theatre in 1978; Byrne's knees begin to move, and Chris Frantz looks supremely happy as he beats away on the drums.
Also included are an infectious Burning Down the House, the Heads biggest hit, on a 1983 episode of Late Night with David Letterman (I remember seeing this when I was 12, and bought the 45 single not long after), and the obscure Artists Only for an unremarkable 79 appearance on Saturday Night Live.
The outta-left-field highlight comes with a 1979 gig on Dick Clarks American Bandstand, of all things. Talking Heads is one of the last groups Id ever expect to see on that teenybopper dance show, but they nail Al Greens midtempo Take Me to the River nonetheless.
After the final note of River runs is where things get weird, as Clark makes awkward banter and refers to them as "you people," as if the four members were a minority race. Never smiling, Byrne admits to shyness and dislking crowds, while bassist Tina Weymouth says they "want to make our mark on music history."
And that they did. Fittingly, the DVD closes with Talking Heads playing Life During Wartime at their 2002 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Given all the bad blood, its not their finest moment, but its agreeably bittersweet. Rod Lott