Sand In The Vaseline: Popular Favorites

Talking Heads

Sire, 1992

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/27/2009

When it comes to smart packaging, the Talking Heads’ greatest hits collection may be one of the finest assembled for a rock band. For novices, the collection is a near-flawless retrospective of the band’s career. For hardcore fans who already own all their albums, the band lures these folks in by including three unreleased tracks as well as two pre-debut demos.

Looking at my two-disc set of the Talking Heads’ greatest hits, it’s not hard to spot where in the band’s career a “best of” collection came in handy. Because Sand In The Vaseline is set up in the typical chronological fashion, the first disc is relatively free of marks, primarily because if I wanted to listen to early Talking Heads, all of their albums up to 1984 are considered greatest hits packages amongst themselves. However, the second disc, consisting of their post-bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250
Stop Making Sense material, has so many marks it’s almost unplayable.

With the exception of Naked, a little late era Talking Heads goes a long way. That’s what makes disc two of Sand In The Vaseline so rewarding. Like disc one, the album includes the obligatory big hits (“Wild Wild Life,” “Burning Down the House,” “And She Was”), but it also contains fan favorites that didn’t make it far on the charts, such as “Memories Can’t Wait,” “Blind,” and “Crosseyed And Painless.”

Even with three unreleased tracks, it would be hard to persuade diehard fans to pick up this set. That’s where the goodness of liner notes comes in. The liner notes in disc two have some refreshingly frank opinions about the songs here. On “Love For Sale,” David Byrne simply writes, “Tried to write a song using only lines from advertisements. It didn’t work.” For disc one, each band member had a chance to write a brief “thank you/retrospect” of their experiences. For that section, you read about how Byrne admitted to trying heroin, Chris Frantz’s recollection of the C.B.G.B., Jerry Harrison’s experiences traveling to Europe with the band and Tina Weymouth giving thanks to James Brown and Muddy Waters.

So, are a few scattershot unreleased singles and some revealing liner notes worthy of a purchase if you have the band’s entire catalog? Yes, if only for its presentation. Unlike other “best of” releases, Sand In The Vaseline excels not just for its choice of songs, but the quality of the unreleased material. “Lifetime Piling Up” could have easily been a hit song for the band and “Popsicle,” an outtake from the Speaking In Tongues sessions, is almost as good. For completionists, this is a guilt-free purchase. For people just discovering this band from hearing Vampire Weekend and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, you could do far worse than Sand In The Vaseline as the best place to start discovering the Talking Heads.

Rating: A-

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© 2009 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sire, and is used for informational purposes only.