Crawdaddy NOVEMBER 26, 2008 - by Steve Matteo


David Byrne and Brian Eno have only worked together a handful of times in the past, but on those recordings they made some groundbreaking music. Eno's production on such Talking Heads albums as Fear Of Music and particularly Remain In Light propelled the band to the forefront of post-punk music. Their blend of art-school punk, funk, and what has now come to be called world music changed music in the early '80s. The two collaborated on the 1981 album My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, which even further reflected an arty take on African-inspired music. While the album didn't entirely introduce found sounds to record making, it revolutionized the possibilities and made the duo pioneers in that arena.

While Eno's solo work, collaborations with the likes of Robert Fripp and, of course, cult status as a brief member of Roxy Music made him a well-known figure among serious pop music aficionados, his work with Talking Heads and (to a lesser) extent Devo paved the way for his monstrous success producing U2. His production on the previous Byrne/Eno collaboration, as well as on this new release, dominates their sound, even though it is Byrne's voice that is out front. It's curious that the two have waited so long to work together again, especially considering that their previous collaboration was reissued in an expanded edition in 2006.

This new album, like much of the work that Eno is involved with, is dominated by his use of the recording studio as a laboratory for creating music from the ground up: building soundscapes that become the backdrop for the songs. Although much of Eno's productions have received wide acclaim, he often eschews conventional pop and rock musical structures. That said, the first two tracks on this album are surprisingly very un-Eno-like. Home and My Big Nurse not only have a fairly straightforward musical approach, belying Eno's production past, but Byrne has also dramatically changed his vocal and lyrical stance here. Rather than the neurotic, alienated, and animated oddball feel of much of his work, the songs are heartfelt and nearly wistful.

Quickly dispelling the warm and fuzzy feel of the opening tracks, I Feel My Stuff soars off in spacey directions, with electronic loops, jarring choruses, and the duo's trademark use of found sounds and instrumental treatments. The title cut is a dreamy meditation, with Byrne in a contemplative mood. The album again changes gears with another more conventional pop approach on Life Is Long. The River, with its ruminations on modern isolation, lyrically recalls Byrne's signature Talking Heads style. Strange Overtones is not strange at all and, with its danceable beat, would be a hit in a better world. On Wanted for Life, Byrne's hicuppy woops recalling his early vocal approach dominate a song that starts off almost like a parody but then builds into something quite substantial.

One Fine Day surprisingly reveals the artier side of both Byrne and Eno musically, while lyrically it showcases a very compassionate side. Poor Boy offers another chance to listen to Eno start a song and build it, with the mood, instrumentation, and ideas changing slowly, yet dramatically, from beginning to end. The album closes with The Lighthouse, another dreamy, ruminative track that conjures up romantic images of being at sea and finally seeing land. A special edition of this CD includes four bonus tracks.

For two musicians who are often thought of as fairly avant-garde, both seem to be drifting slowly to the center. Byrne is clearly content with his life and writes more about joy and domestic bliss. Eno, for all his experimental leanings, is one of the most successful artist-producers in music and, given his recent work with Coldplay, his upcoming work on the soon-to-be-released U2 album, and his rumored reunion with Roxy Music, he is surely one of the busiest.