INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Roadrunner JUNE 1981 - by Tyrone Flex
DAVID BYRNE AND BRIAN ENO: MY LIFE IN THE BUSH OF GHOSTS
Now tell me, is there anything new under the sun, and is there anything left to say concerning dear Brian's already long and winding pilgrimage thru the valley of the shadow - of sound and vision? You may do well also to ponder how far from the city nerve-end the 'bush of ghosts' really is? I came to this Byrne/Eno offering with the usual mosquito swarm of hopes and preconceptions, and in some ways, it provided the Mortein, in others, a new batch of eggs. What do you expect from a couple of turkeys who've been to the top of the hill and decided that the ones beyond are just as interesting?
Enough imageful silly buggers, on with the real McCoy, if there is such a beast. Hurdle number one, this is not a trendily ethnic album to trot out while your friends yack it up with the hand-carved 'African masks' brought home from your hike across the Sudan. Most of the vocal sounds are tape-looped English and the music doesn't stoop to 'pseudo-authentic' tribal reflections as one might have expected. Hurdle number two, nor is this Remain In Light (Part 2). As should be known, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts was recorded before the Talking Heads release and held back so as not to confuse the befuddled buying public.
As usual, would-be reviewers of the daily papers are puzzled by the aural meanderings, but have been hyped into giving favourable reviews. Well and good. LOTS of us regular folk could hack a track or four while cleaning the bathroom or watching Dallas for the second time 'round, with the sound down. And if it's loud enough or our concentration is aroused, we'll be able to discern the many delightful subtleties therein. These seem to be the album's 'raison d'etre' as most of the obvious structures and tones are tasteful but bordering on familiar as far as 'afro' and middle eastern bits go.
My favourite threads are the discreet noses that pop up, zip 'round, then disappear, and the vocal bits that are pre-recorded spoken phrases put through bizarre tape transformations, converting normal speech into a rhythmic and melodic organism. Byrne's guitar sound is moulded with the same imaginative twists, at times reminding one of dear ol' Robert Fripp (to be expected when working with Eno) but also coming out with a few twists of its own. If you like playing 'Spot the reference', you'll come across the obvious Talking Heads allusions and funk legacies, but there are also lines running back to Bowie's African Night Flight (Lodger), early Eno albums like Taking Tiger Mountain and Another Green World, and African Sanctus, the soundtrack to the movie If.
As is obvious, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts hasn't got a 'Including THE hit single' sticker, and I doubt whether it'll go screaming up the album chart, but what care we for such hallmarks of commercial success, eh. Just an interesting album to put between Remain In Light and the last Eno effort you added to your collection.