Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Dec. 9, 2005
Packaged in a white plastic block with song titles cut into it, Talking Heads has earned the unofficial title of the "Brick." While 2003's multidisc Once in a Lifetime was a greatest hits/career retrospective, the Brick contains all eight of the band's studio LPs on eight DualDiscs, and musically speaking, it's an imposing monolith. Each disc contains a CD side with the original album newly remastered, plus relevant bonus tracks, and a DVD side with new Surround Sound mix produced by Jerry Harrison and extra audio, video, lyrics, and photos. That's a lot of the Heads' off-kilter punk and funk to sprawl through, and with a list price of $150, it's not for the casual fan. Listening to the albums in the order they were made, it's fascinating to hear the New York quartet build into an innovative, polyrhythmic orchestra from their meager beginnings as geeky art school students singing about buildings, warning signs, and psycho killers. The albums produced with Brian Eno, particularly 1980's Remain in Light and 1983's Speaking in Tongues, adapt especially well to the new expanded mixes where listeners can in essence wrap themselves in the band. Of the Brick's videos, a live shoot from 1976 at New York performance space the Kitchen is eye-catching as are the four songs from a 1980 German television appearance including a searing "I Zimbra." Audio extras like an early, acoustic "Psycho Killer" and a spunky version of "Papa Legba" featuring Pops Staples are also noteworthy. Points are shaved for packaging each CD in a white jewel case with no identifying markings. While fitting in with the overall look of the Brick, it's more than a little irritating not having at least the track listing readily available while listening to Talking Heads' exquisitely appealing noise.