From their first gig opening for the Ramones in 1975 until the (eventually permanent) hiatus that followed the release of Naked in 1988, the Talking Heads released eight albums of music potently attuned to the absurdities and anxieties of late 20th century living. As they evolved from the sweaty post-punk weirdos that mesmerized audiences at CBGB to the well-oiled (and expanded) funk automatons depicted in Jonathan Demme’s seminal 1984 concert film, Stop Making Sense, the band never lost sight of their guiding principle: that being alive in the postmodern world is a deeply strange, deeply unsettling proposition.
While the message rarely changed, the means of delivery did. Listen to the eight albums the band released in those 11 short years, and you’ll cross sonic landscapes that take you past nervous New York punk and no wave, the irresistible grooves of contemporaneous R&B and funk, and exit pointing towards country-western, glam, and nearly every other dominant subgenre of the era. With a catalog that sometimes sounds like a wild spin of a radio dial, it’s easy to lose your way. Luckily, we’ve done some of the work for you and assembled a rough ranking of the Talking Heads’ body of work. You may still find yourself living in a shotgun shack, but with this guide at the ready, you’ll at least know how you got there.
Just remember: this ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco.