To try and explain why Talking Heads mean so much to so very many, is akin to asking a magician to show you how the trick is done – you know the answer is in there, but there’s more fun in believing the magic is real. They’re a band without a Number One album and haven’t played a full concert together in 30 years. And yet, they remain one of the most influential act of the era and a beacon of creativity.

That much was evident last year when A24 re-released Stop Making Sense, their 1984 film directed by Jonathan Demme, which captures an iconic performance at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre. Often referenced as the apex of a live music performance, it has inspired artists ever since, not least The 1975 who paid homage to the staging on their ‘A Brief Enquiry…’ live tour, and Kermit the Frog stepping into frontman David Byrne’s big suit.

Blondshell was one such artist who witnessed that enthusiasm first hand. Speaking to NME, she remembers seeing the film in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles last year and her clip of enthused cinemagoer ditching popcorn for a boogie went viral. “It’s music that’s so striking, you’re not going to forget how you felt seeing it for the first time”.

Returning to cinemas, screenings of the iconic concert movie saw cinema-goers being told to return to their seats after getting up to dance in the aisles. Even the band got back together for a surprising, if somewhat terse, reunion at a Q&A at Toronto Film Festival and joint interviews celebrating their legacy.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 13: (L-R) Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, David Byrne and Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads attend Stop Making Sense Q & A hosted by BAM and A24 at BAM Harvey Theater on September 13, 2023 in Brooklyn Borough of New York City, New York. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for BAM)

The success of the re-release encouraged cult production company A24 and the band to go even further with ‘Everyone’s Getting Involved: A Tribute To Stop Making Sense’, a song-for-song tribute album released today (May 17). Artists featured include Paramore, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, The National, Girl In Red and more, covering the film’s tracklist in full. It follows the production company’s foray into attention-grabbing soundtracks, after the release of psychological-horror flick I Saw The TV Glow, alongside a collection of songs that features Caroline Polachek and Phoebe Bridgers, while Jack Antonoff and Charli XCX have been announced to write songs for the upcoming film Mother Mary starring Anne Hathaway and Michaela Coel.

‘Everyone’s Getting Involved’ is a dizzying listen, as artists the world over reimagine and interpret some of their biggest songs. Miley Cyrus’ has turned ‘Psycho Killer’ from an acoustic jam to pulsating – if divisive – electro romp, while The National’s faithful rendition of ‘Heaven’ mirrors some of the emotive live covers they’ve done over the years. There’s an Afrobeats-infused ‘Life During Wartime’ by DJ Tunez, while Lagos duo The Cavemen – who coined the genre Highlife Fusion – take on ‘What A Day That Was’.

Two of the acts – Chicano Batman and Blondshell – tell NME that being involved with the compilation pushed their musical capabilities. The former, who’ve just released their fifth album ‘Notebook Fantasy’, took on ‘Crosseyed and Painless’, the album’s closing track, while Blondshell brought alt-rock stylings to ‘Thank You For Sending Me An Angel’.

LA funk-pop band Chicano Batman pieced the song together in less than four days, enlisting Beastie Boys producer Money Mark (who also collaborated with David Byrne on a William Onyeabor tribute concert) and drummer Michael Carubba, who performs with Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison in his touring group Remain In Light. “Schedules never align these days but when they do we thought let’s ride with it,” Carlos Arévalo tells NME.

Blondshell CREDIT Jonathan Weiner/NME

Their version is close to the original, except they acknowledge the challenge of living up to such an iconic recording. “In the past when we’ve covered songs we’ve really flipped it and made it unrecognisable, but we wanted to keep it faithful. We looked at various iterations of the track and how it evolved and wanted to marry it with our style. But some things are incredibly timeless, so why change it?” Alongside Paramore’s ‘Burning Down The House’ and Teezo Touchdown’s ‘Making Flippy Floppy’, the fun in their cover is to simply keep up with the original.

For Blondshell – whose self-titled debut album received 5-stars from NME last year – it wasn’t just a chance to put their own spin on it, but also to understand the song better. “At first I was like ‘you’re not gonna make a Talking Heads song better than them’. Then I sat with it for a bit and realised that maybe reinventing it slightly is the only thing you can do?”

She continues: “I thought it was a romantic and lighthearted song, but the piano player I worked with said he heard it as a message from a father and son; I don’t know what it means for definite, but it for sure opened up my mind to the different meanings.”

What it did for both acts is to challenge them in how they understood the music. After seeing the film in the cinema, Blondshell says the steady growth of the band through the set – from a David Byrne solo set-up to a nine-person set-up – is emblematic of how textured the music is. “I left feeling like I needed to be better at my instruments and that I wanted a bigger band. It makes you understand the disparate parts of music and how it’s not just one big sound.”

But why has the release endured? Arévalo says that the moment it captures in the ‘80s, and how it subverts some of the sonics of the time, is its strength – as are the sheer performance and emotional punch. “It’s these three mediums colliding: there’s art happening on stage, there’s music happening on stage, and then there’s film,” he says. “How can you not move with those songs being played?”

‘Everyone’s Getting Involved: A Tribute To Stop Making Sense’ is out now

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