Saturday, December 13, 2008

David Byrne and Brian Eno, "Everything That Happens" (#18)

"Everything That Happens"
(David Byrne/Brian Eno)
David Byrne and Brian Eno
Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

David Byrne's first collaboration with Brian Eno, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, happened nearly two decades ago and was a bizarre New Wave masterpiece of African polyrhythms and ambient electronic music. Everything That Happens Will Happen Today doesn't sound much like that record, however. The restless experimentation is gone, subsumed under the wave of adult life. Nor does it particularly sound like the Talking Heads' masterwork, 1980's Remain in Light (produced by Eno). It's not jerky the way that album is jerky. Byrne doesn't sound paranoid, at least not in the same way. Again, he sounds more sedate, more comfortable.

The title track, for example, features no percussion but instead floats on a cloud of synthesizer noise and treated guitar. It's Byrne's dream of the oddly simulated suburban neighborhood featured on the cover. He's no longer amazed, as he was in "Once in a Lifetime," the Talking Heads song to which the lyrics most obviously point; this is his beautiful house, and inside is his beautiful wife, and he's grown accustomed to it. He drives to work on a "perfect freeway," and even if he watches a car bomb blow his neighbor's automobile to bits, he's all right, and he wants to make sure you are, too.

It's not happy, exactly. Byrne is never all that happy, however upbeat and minor-key his music gets. But he's making his peace with a society he used to think was out to get him. It's not out to get him here. It's just silent, and if it's ominous, it's not sinister. Don't worry about the government. Same as it ever was.

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