As I giddily mowed through these eight studio albums, two things become abundantly clear: Time seems incapable of diminishing the core virtues and charms of vintage Talking Heads music; and, if in some configuration or another, you already own their output up through Speaking in Tongues, this collection is pretty irrelevant. None of the "bonus tracks" or "unfinished outtakes" is a stunner, or even often close to the caliber of tunes that originally made the cut. The "alternate versions" can be interesting—the cello undertow on the acoustic "Psycho Killer," the barely kitschy countrified fillips goosing "Thank You for Sending Me an Angel," and the guitar strafing the mix of "Life During Wartime"—but this was a band of sublime instincts and rarefied taste. They already let you hear their best stuff. Ditto the videos. Go rent Stop Making Sense and otherwise use your DVD time on real cinema.
But if you've never immersed yourself in the chronology of the nerdy-arty wisenheimers whose jittery cool set a standard for a "new wave" both amid and apart from punk, and who seamlessly evolved into paleface funkateers so hip to the jive that they accurately name one of their outtakes "Fela Riff," then this box will tickle and rearrange your imagination. None of the eight discs is less than good, even the assiduously earnest-to-cute True Stories. By Naked, though, they make all the right moves but are just going through the motions. But oh, in their prime, say, "Psycho" or "Wartime" or "Animals" or "The Great Curve" or "Burning Down the House," Talking Heads were real beauts. —Britt Robson
For the ultimate Ramones boxed set, go to Rainbow, ask for a box, put the first four Ramones albums inside the box. Then memorize every note and form a band, which will probably never be as good as the Ramones, but who gives a fuck. Except then you wouldn't have the triumphant "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg" single, or '84's near-great Too Tough To Die, or any of the major pleasures from the minor albums. This four-disc set is properly generous with cuts from the first four and Too Tough and hits most of the other highlights. It's got a backbeat, you can't lose it. Plus it includes a cool and sometimes even moving comic book with contributions by Christine Shields, Sergio Aragones, Fly, and others. The fourth disc is all videos (I'm against it). —Dylan Hicks