INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Popdose NOVEMBER 20, 2008 - by Dw Dunphy
DAVID BYRNE AND BRIAN ENO: EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS WILL HAPPEN TODAY
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see David Byrne live in concert. It was purported to be a celebration of the work he did with Brian Eno, famed producer and musical renegade, encompassing Eno's production on classic Talking Heads albums as well as their collaborations like My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts and a new, currently digital-only release Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. The show was composed of Byrne, a backing band, a trio of backup singers and a trio of interpretive dancers, and while that sounds like a bad, pretentious idea the whole thing came off very entertaining and ended up being a fine night of live music.
Another big plus was the lack of squirrels in the road. Come on, if you go to see bands with an extensive and memorable back-catalogue you know about the squirrels. A pace is building, the classics are rolling out and the audience is having a grand old time, then suddenly the performer announces, "We'd like to play something from our new album" and suddenly it's all screeching brakes and momentum sliding to a halt. Damn squirrels, they'll do it every time.
That's what's so great about the new collaboration: nary a squirrel to be found. All the songs, even if they're not immediate attention-getters, are very good and surprisingly song-like. I hesitate to use the word 'conventional' because it would tend to paint Everything That Happens Will Happen Today as by-the-numbers, which it definitely isn't. These songs sat side by side with tunes like I, Zimbra, Once In A Lifetime, and even Help Me Somebody and never interrupted the flow, never incurred massive pee-breaks and beer raids. The album is an album, and not an excuse to tour based around weak product, thank God.
The story goes like this: Byrne found himself in the company of Eno unexpectedly, as both hadn't co-created in a while. Eno, over the years, made his bones by becoming an ambient artist as well as the big-time producer of several classic albums, including U2's The Joshua Tree. Byrne mixed his sound with massive multiculturalism and founded the Luaka Bop label. Now here they were in the company of each other and the inevitable happened: one asked the other if they were up for doing something. The result? Eno sent Byrne some instrumentals he had worked up, yet these frames were distinctively song-based.
This wasn't an esoteric art project or sound collage. Byrne wrote the lyrics, added guitar and, on the other side, came up with some of the best tunes he's done in years. Perhaps it was the need to work in the pre-set ground-rules, maybe it was that he felt like just writing some very cohesive song-songs. Either way, it worked quite well.
Everything That Happens is gorgeous stuff, plaintive and anthemic at the same time. The freebie single Strange Overtones could be a hit, it feels like a hit. I'd love it if it eventually did get to that degree of recognition, yet I doubt it. There is something to it that I don't hear on pop radio, not even on Eno's recent work on Coldplay's Viva La Vida, but is all over this album. Can you tell I'm impressed?