Rhino's -- or, more accurately, Sire/Warner/Rhino's -- Best of Talking Heads follows 2003's box set Once in a Lifetime by a year, and it features the same remastering from that set. It also shares part of a title with the 1992 U.K. compilation The Best of Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime, which was released the same year as the American double-disc overview Popular Favorites: Sand in the Vaseline. Given the similar titles, similar release dates, and similar track listings, it's easy to get confused at first, but all you need to know is that if you're looking for a comprehensive collection, get the Rhino box, and if you want a disc of hits, get this single-disc Rhino collection. Not that the 2004 Best of Talking Heads has every hit or well-known song -- "I Zimbra," "Born Under Punches," "Crosseyed and Painless," "Swamp," and "Stay Up Late" could all have been here and all are missed -- but at 18 tracks, this is a generous compilation and draws a better portrait of the band than not just the 1992 single-disc compilation, but arguably the patchwork Popular Favorites as well. For the casual fan, this is likely all they'll need to have, and for others, it's a good place to get acquainted with the band.
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Essentially a careful distillation of the somewhat unwieldy Once in a Lifetime box set, this disc provides an ideal primer for those interested in exploring new wave's smartest band -- and a fine one-stop for the already converted. The 18 songs here stretch back to the Heads' nascence as a trio -- represented by the chirping, insistent "Love -- Building on Fire" -- with stops at every turn in the band's long and winding career. Naturally, that means you'll find staples such as "Psycho Killer" and the dense, rough-hewn "Life During Wartime," but also present are less ubiquitous tracks, including the dreamy "Heaven" and the sun-dappled "Girlfriend Is Better." If you're looking for off-the-wall finds or archival nuggets, this isn't the place to find 'em, but if a dose of brain food -- with a long, cool, butt-moving chaser -- is your pleasure, The Best of Talking Heads delivers the goods in spades.