Arcade Fire embodies the same outsider spirit that Talking Heads dedicated their output to, proving that it was okay to be different. There are undoubtedly vast similarities in attitudes between the two maverick acts, and they feel like kindred spirits despite their other noteworthy differences. Arcade Fire, in the opinion of many, are almost a regenerated version of Talking Heads made for the 21st Century. Both outfits have traversed through reinventions, coupled with Arcade Fire’s insistence on bringing an abundance more to their live show, it creates an unforgettable immersive experience that is taken straight from the David Byrne handbook.
Arcade Fire and Talking Heads are both guilty of preferring to deal with the abstract, writing from a metaphorical place rather than a literal sense. What makes ‘This Must Be The Place’ different is that it’s one of the few tracks that sees David Byrne deliver an emotional performance straight from the heart, with no metaphors to hide behind. Arcade Fire’s version of the song allows the band to put their imprint on the piece, yet keeps the raw sentiment that Talking Heads originally packed into every pore of the track and is a perfect masterclass in what a cover should do.
In the bonus footage taken from Talking Heads’ iconic concert film Stop Making Sense, Byrne revealed why he adores the track so greatly: “That’s a love song made up almost completely of non-sequiturs, phrases that may have a strong emotional resonance but don’t have any narrative qualities. It’s a real honest kind of love song,” Byrne stated.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done a real love song before. Mine always had a sort of reservation or a twist. I tried to write one that wasn’t corny, that didn’t sound stupid or lame the way many do. I think I succeeded; I was pretty happy with that,” Byrne humbly added.
Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz is equally proud of the track, telling Songfacts: “It’s a very comforting song, I think people listen to it and it kind of warms their hearts because it’s a song with a happy and secure message. I love that song myself. It’s really sweet – quite an accomplishment for a band such as ours.”
Arcade Fire’s version of ‘This Must Be The Place’ was seemingly given the David Byrne seal of approval when he later performed the track live with the Canadian group in Toronto. Still, unfortunately, no footage exists from this undoubtedly stellar performance. Byrne also teamed up with Arcade Fire in 2011 for the Talking Heads inspired ‘Speaking In Tongues’, which confirms that the love-in between the two artists is unequivocally a two-way street.
The cover of ‘This Must Be The Place’ by Arcade Fire is a joyous celebration of everything Talking Heads and is a beautiful nod to one of their greatest inspirations. Without David Byrne and Talking Heads creating this brand of left-field pop music, who knows if Arcade Fire would have had the courage to have made the kind of albums they have.
In truth, both acts have been misunderstood by a mainstream audience and, when they first emerged Talking Heads were classed as ‘new-wave’ despite sounding nothing like any of their New York counterparts. This story is similar to the one that Arcade Fire found themselves in following the release of their stunning debut Funeral in 2004. It sat in a different world to acts like The White Stripes or The Strokes, who were the most prominent alternative acts of the day and, since then, they’ve continued on their unique journey and have never stopped dripping in originality.
Take a few minutes out to enjoy Arcade Fire’s wonderful cover of ‘This Must Be The Place’, below.