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TALKING HEADS by Bill Flanagan (Vantage: $6.95, paperback).

February 16, 1986|ROBERT HILBURN

Talking Heads, the New York-based rock group whose best-known tunes include "Life During Wartime" and "Burning Down the House," is among the dozen best and most influential American bands of the post-punk era. Yet there is a coldness to leader David Bryne's anxious, art-conscious tales of human foibles and obsession that limits one's ability to feel passionate about the group--or relate to the singer-songwriter.

Bill Flanagan moves impressively behind that shield to talk to people who knew Bryne during his brief stay at the Rhode Island School of Design and his early years in New York City, and Flanagan emerges with a picture of calculation and drive that explains some of Bryne's artistic stance. Except for bassist Tina Weymouth's occasional challenge of Bryne's authority, however, there isn't much dramatic tension or structure to Flanagan's story, and the failure to more thoroughly discuss the band's music (and ultimate importance) leaves the simply curious reader wondering why anyone should care about this band in the first place.

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