Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK
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The Sunday Times MARCH 11, 2018 - by Dan Cairns

DAVID BYRNE: AMERICAN UTOPIA

Part of his Reasons To Be Cheerful project, which seeks to collate and curate "hopeful writings, photos, music and lectures" as an antidote to the seemingly ceaseless flow of bad and fake news, Byrne's first solo album in fourteen years is also just a record, to reassure those still resisting the multi-platforming tide. Ten songs, thirty-eight minutes and a cast of collaborators - Brian Eno, as you'd expect, but Sampha and Oneohtrix Point Never, too - that suggests a desire for creative feedback and friction as strong as ever.

The flights-of-fancy lyrical waspishness and musical wit that have characterised the sixty-five-year-old's work since Talking Heads are strongly present. If there is nothing as definitively existential as Once In A Lifetime's "How did I get here?", or as menacing and alchemical as Love This Giant (the album he made with St Vincent), his new songs attest to a mind every bit as curious about our quirks, foibles and capacity for kindness, cruelty and self-deception. Bullet is, on the surface, a song about a bullet's journey up through a murdered man's body; so far, so David Byrne. Yet, thanks in part to its shimmering, circular musical textures, it is also incredibly poignant, at once clear-eyed, appalled and tender. Just as powerful is the hymnal Dog's Mind, which, although the lyrics verge on hectoring satire, again demonstrates a genius for melding artfully artless delivery and musical grandeur and skittishness. The same goes for the limber, dancefloor-ready Gasoline And Dirty Sheets, which looks at America through the eyes of a refugee (and is, alongside the jerky, anxious It's Not Dark Up Here, the most Talking Heads song here), and the bracingly odd Every Day Is A Miracle, swapping the viewpoint for a chicken's.

Not all of it works. But there's something affirming about Byrne keeping the faith with pop, his approach as quizzical and original as ever, documenting life, and us, so unsparingly - and having the decency to put a beat to it.


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