INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Observer AUGUST 17, 2008 - by Kitty Empire
DAVID BYRNE & BRIAN ENO: EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS WILL HAPPEN TODAY
'Electronic gospel' is not the first genre that springs to mind when talk turns to David Byrne and Brian Eno. 'Ambient world music' or 'neurotic pop' would better describe pop's big-cat intellectuals, reunited after twenty-seven years. As the '70s became the '80s, Byrne was the leader of Talking Heads, one of America's most questing bands. Eno had blazed a trail through art college, Roxy Music and experimental recordings to become the artist-producer credited with inventing ambient music. Eno produced three Heads albums; he recently added life to Coldplay's Viva La Vida. In 1981, Eno and Byrne collaborated on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, an experiment in non-Western rhythms and an early milestone in sampling.
Their latest collaboration seems conservative in comparison. Despite two tracks of wilful weirdness, much of this record draws on folk (My Big Nurse), country (the title track), soul (Life Is Long) and the group-singing of gospel and campfires (hence Eno and Byrne's description of the album as 'electronic gospel'). It's a shock to hear that Home echoes the chorus of Simon & Garfunkel's Homeward Bound. Eno has been accused of much in his time (freaking David Bowie out, propelling U2 to superstardom) as has Byrne (miking up a disused New York ferry station and letting it 'sing'), but ripping off folk purists is an unexpected charge.
Stranger still, this album's straightforward songs are far more compelling. You come to Eno and Byrne to have your aural systems reset, but I Feel My Stuff is six-and-a-half minutes of waywardness, featuring outdated breakbeats, bad rapping and a squally rock interlude.
Far better is The River, a gently clattering song in which Byrne movingly imagines an allegorical flood. When this record is good, Byrne could be back in Talking Heads (as on Wanted For Life). When it tries too hard, it sounds like Poor Boy, a busy, modular funk track whose rhythmic ambitions never quite gel with Byrne's vocals.
Ultimately, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today fails to live up to the expectations of a rematch between two of pop's inveterate oddities. But songs like One Fine Day confirm that these two old radicals are big softies, as partial to a nice singalong as anyone else.