Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Dynamic Duo Return

On David Byrne and Brian Eno’s first record in 27 years, the song “Strange Overtones” declares “this groove is out of fashion, these beats are twenty years old.” It may be a testament of Byrne showing his age and the fact that the music overall on the new album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today is a delightful throwback to the poppier side of Talking Heads. When first hearing that the duo was teaming up again since their last record, the daunting and pretentious My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, I was ultimately very excited. That album from 1981 is unlike anything you’ve ever heard. World music mixed with strange samples and “found objects” like frying pans and cardboard used as instruments is something that takes a lot to digest. With 27 years behind them, things are quite a bit lighter.

The good news is, that even though two musical giants are treading no knew ground, they have created a wonderful album of pop tunes that they proclaim are “electric gospel.” This proclamation is a bit of a stretch. The titular track has a gospel feel with a dreamy chorus of Byrne’s making a delightful dreamscape of a melody over the music that Eno creates with soft synths and a percussionless atmosphere. Beyond this, the Gospel element is lost somewhere. Regardless, the album still shines past this.

The process of the album was much like that of The Postal Service with Brian Eno recording and writing the music and Byrne taking care of the vocal arrangements and lyrics.The folky opener "Home" is a beautiful sweeping track. The most funky track with the strangest style is "I Feel My Stuff." Byrne dons his silliest voice since "Swamp" from Speaking in Tongues and the overall funky beat with scattershot piano and lots of percussion sounds much like what Talking Heads would sound like today if still together. "Life is Long" and "The River" are two wonderfully crafted back to back pop anthems filled with hopefull lyrics and fun instrumentation. "Life is Long" brings some horns in for a great flavor while "The River" is one of Byrne's finer vocal outings on the record. "Strange Overtones" is by far the best song on the record with it's breezy 80's feel and it's poingant lyrics of two aging musicians going through the song making proccess again after years of inactivity together.

If anything, Byrne and Eno know how to craft great pop songs. The music as a whole is nothing new and is almost archaic in ways. Although it seems a bit dated, the retro movement of bands trying hard to sound like New Order, The Smiths or any other slew of 80s pop bands, I have no problem two giants of that decade doing what they do best. It's great that they are doing through digital download first then physical release. It's seeming to be the way that artists who don't need support from a label can get out there and release it on their own. To work on something your own and without interference from a label is what artists like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails and even Byrne & Eno should be doing at this point in their career. True artists need not be censorered.

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