INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Electronic Sound MARCH 2018 - by Neal Mason
DAVID BYRNE: AMERICAN UTOPIA
Finest solo outing from former Talking Head in nearly two decades? You betcha
So this is a moment. David Byrne, who don't forget played his part in changing the musical landscape forever with Talking Heads, has released a bunch of so-so collaborative albums (with Eno, with Norman Cook, with St Vincent) over the last ten years or so. This is his first solo album proper since 2004's Grown Backwards. That's while, right? Thing is, to find a record bearing his name that really stands up, you have to go back another decade, to his eponymous 1994 album or perhaps even 1992's Uh-Oh.
But let's not worry about that, because American Utopia is very good. What strikes you straightaway is that we've been here before, the title is pure smalltown Americana, the tales within not unlike the off-kilter narratives on True Stories. Which is fitting, because it's part of a bigger multimedia project, called Reasons To Be Cheerful. "There are actually a LOT of encouraging things going on around the world," he explains, "they've given me hope, given what's happening in the world, and I'd like to share them."
Nothing like a multi-millionaire telling you things aren't that bad. Still, nice sentiment, and if the vehicle for this hope is records like this, who are we to be so churlish?
Musically, it's awash with lush electronics which don't let up from start to finish. The killer cut is It's Not Dark Up Here, which is full to the brim with fine Talking Heads juice, a tip-toe bassline and locked-down groove so taut it could be Weymouth/Franz... which sadly it isn't. The oddest outing is Everybody's Coming To My House, cowritten with old pal, Brian Eno. It's so LCD Soundsystem it should have the universe folding in on itself. Still, it's pretty good fun.
Lyrically, it's David Byrne, so it is the gift that keep on giving. I'll leave you with a line from Every Day Is A Miracle. It goes, "The brain of a chicken / And the dick of a donkey / A pig in a blanket / And that's why you want me". And they say romance is dead.
All said and done, this is head and shoulders Byrne's best outing for a loooooong time. Next stop, that Talking Heads reunion. Yeah, right.