MORE DARK THAN SHARK - FEATURE
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS WILL HAPPEN TODAY
After twenty-seven years, David Byrne and Brian Eno created a second collaboration.
DAVID BYRNE July 28, 2008: Brian Eno and I have finished our new record, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. One of the songs, Strange Overtones, will be available free via everythingthathappens.com in exactly one week - you can log on and get a reminder if you like - and the whole record will be available August 18. A company called Topspin Media helped to set up the website and our online business.
In a nutshell, Brian wrote most of the music, and I composed most of the vocal melodies and lyrics, and then sang them. Other musicians play on the album too. It's not Bush of Ghosts II: this is a record of sung songs, and the result really surprises me. Despite a sinister inflection to both the lyrics and the music, many songs feel fairly uplifting and the overall tone is hopeful, which still surprises me. From where does this quality derive?
Eno and I hadn't worked together for many years, but since the Nonesuch reissue of Bush Of Ghosts in 2006, we'd kept in contact fairly regularly. In spite of a slow start, we began to collaborate, still with no plans to make a whole record (or whatever a collection of songs might be called now). After a while though, it became obvious that we were indeed making a record. As it neared completion, we decided to try releasing it ourselves - so far there is no record label involved - though various independent distributors will handle the physical CDs. Those who follow the music industry will know this idea is not entirely new; but every experiment in this area turns out a little different, as no model is right for everyone.
The artist and designer Stefan Sagmeister is busy creating the packaging and graphics. We've worked together before and it always results in something new and surprising; I have no doubt it will happen again here too. Do I sound like a salesman? Am I too enthusiastic?
Anyway, the album release has kept me pretty consumed in the last few weeks. A week ago, Brian was in town for some wrap-up talks and meetings. During a visit to Stefan's studio, the two of them riffed on politics and economics. Stefan mentioned that his American friends used to point to the higher taxes in his native Austria as an example of the high price of Euro socialism and a reason they are happier in the US. Stefan pointed out that he now pays almost the same percentage in taxes here in the US, but gets almost nothing for it. Almost half our taxes goes to the Pentagon, and though some claim we need to invest in the protection and defense of our country, one can just as easily claim that we are more susceptible and less respected despite all the billions spent. It's a waste that we have been able to support for decades, but no longer.
In most industrialized countries, tax money provides - for starters - free medical care and free or highly subsidized higher education. Here in the U.S., the insurance companies, the medical establishment, and Sally Mae (the student loan company), have thus far prevented the emergence of a similar scenario. My analysis is obviously oversimplified, but I suspect pragmatics will soon change people's attitudes here. Recent news articles have pointed out that often a relatively minor medical issue is responsible for driving middle and lower income people in the US into a downward economic spiral. A frightening number of people are living off credit cards and mortgage debts and are able to maintain that delicate balancing act until something - sudden hospital costs for example - tips them off their tightrope. The lack of a net then becomes painfully obvious. I'm not arguing that everyone who got into living in debt should be bailed out, but if the system doesn't change soon, there will be a lot of bodies on the big top floor.
Brian added that the U.S. relies on what he aptly refers to as "cowardly socialism." For decades at a time, we permit laissez-faire capitalists to espouse the harsh, invisible hand of the free market, until giants like Bear Stearns, Chrysler, and Fannie Mae threaten to go under because of greedy behavior or bad decisions. Then the government will begrudgingly bail them out and maybe even adopt some protective or regulatory policies. But only when pushed to the wall do they admit that the implementation of vaguely socialist policies - policies that value people over quick profits - may prevent the collapse of their whole house of cards.
We moved on to marvel at how Hallmark can put a music player in a greeting card. And in case you were wondering, none of the above political complaints are in evidence on the album.
Selected Reviews: DAVID BYRNE & BRIAN ENO: EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS WILL HAPPEN TODAY by John Doran, The Quietus AUGUST 2008 • DAVID BYRNE & BRIAN ENO: EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS WILL HAPPEN TODAY by John Mulvey, The Times AUGUST 2008 • DAVID BYRNE & BRIAN ENO: EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS WILL HAPPEN TODAY by Alexis Petridis, The Guardian AUGUST 2008 • DAVID BYRNE & BRIAN ENO: EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS WILL HAPPEN TODAY by Andy Gill, The Independent AUGUST 2008 • DAVID BYRNE & BRIAN ENO: EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS WILL HAPPEN TODAY by Owen Hatherley, The Observer AUGUST 2008
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