Brian Eno & David Byrne – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

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A couple of things:

1. Great title.

2. Great album cover and liner notes.

Too bad we’re not here for either of those things.

I’m not exactly sure who Everything That Happens Will Happen Todayought to appeal to: the new generation will see the two names on the cover and you can practically see a comical “?” materialize above their heads before they flip it aside and look for something recognizable. Meanwhile, people who are privy to the works of either gentlemen ought to know that it’s 2008 and that both artists are completely out of their decade.

After the Talking Heads disbanded, David Byrne trucked on with a largely unnoticed solo career. Meanwhile, Brian Eno’s kept busy with a slew of projects, but what was most noticeable was his work as a producer, the most recognizable of which was Coldplay’s Viva la Vida, released earlier in 2008. But to ignore the fact that both artists created a trilogy of Talking Heads albums from 1978-1980, whose relevance can still be seen today, would be unforgivable. Meanwhile, Brian Eno & David Byrne’s last collaboration project, 1981’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, was one of the most innovative albums of its time, one of the first to incorporate a heavy use of sampling, despite not having aged well over the course of three decades. That one was mostly a Brian Eno affair; it’s hard to know exactly what Byrne was doing, especially since the vocals were samples. Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, on the other hand, is much more the work of both artists, with David Byrne’s unmistakable voice at the forefront.

But: Byrne’s voice sounds awkward in a lot of places here, and that’s not a fault of age. David Byrne’s voice always had an anxious yipping quality to it (listen to how he sings “Look away” on “I Feel My Stuff” as if he didn’t know if it was supposed to be a trip-hop or new wave number – yeesh), but with the backing of a eclectic, energetic band behind him as with the Talking Heads, it worked. Listening to “The River,” you kind of wish someone else was delivering the vocals, while he takes way too many liberties on “Home.” Eno seems to recognize this, so single “Strange Overturns” sounds like it could have belonged to a Talking Heads post-Remain in Light record with its funky bass and it’s one of the few redeemable cuts of the album. David Byrne has called Everything That Happens Will Happen Today a sort of “electronic gospel,” which, should by all means be an interesting combination, but the tracks that one can see any sort of gospel-influence only hint at it and never achieve it. This may be due to, oh I don’t know, a sorry lack of gospel singers? I mean, I guess the backing vocals that come in for the last minute of “Everything That Happens” almost makes the song worth it, but elsewhere they’re doing nothing at all but providing vague harmonies (see: “The Lighthouse”) or else just there as a bridge but end up sounding confused and confusing (see: “The River”). It’s not as if the duo were concerned with pulling in outside talent: multi-instrumentalist Leo Abrahams, who had previously collaborated with Eno, is on here, as well as Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera (on “I Feel My Stuff”) and an uncredited Jarvis Cocker. And it’s not as if David Byrne is unfamiliar with creating a gospel-influenced track, need I remind everyone of “Road to Nowhere,” one of the few redeeemable cuts off 1985’s Little Creatures? That one track does everything the tracks here try to, and does it better.

Of course, I’m being harsh on a record that’s still pleasant – if nothing else – to listen to. It’s simply that when two seasoned veterans can’t deliver, it’s more of a letdown than two unknowns. Moreover, the record does have moments. Opener “Home” vaguely works thanks to the Eno-style percussion and because Byrne has room for his bombast, despite the fact that I wish that whole middle section actually made use of gospel singers instead of trying to imitate them. “I Feel My Stuff” is the most intersting cut here; the piano that sounds like it would be played in a haunted house offers a nice break in the album’s monotony, but the track is far too long to be interesting. It does shift halfway through and does its best to become something anthemic, but by then I’ve lost interest; “I think I’ve waited too long” indeed. Moreover, since both artists had worked with Robert Fripp at one point, I sort of wish he was the one to deliver the guitar solo in that track, which would’ve injected a much needed spark. Both these discussed tracks are supposed to create dark vibes, see especially, the following lines from the opener, “Home, where my world is breaking in two / Home, with the neighbors fighting […] / Home, were my parents telling the truth? […] / Home, and the cameras watching,” but any sense of foreboding is out the window, thanks to the overly pleasant melodies and instrumentals that comprise 90% of this album.

The cover is unwittingly remarkably apt. This record is about as interesting as the suburban life.

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One response to “Brian Eno & David Byrne – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

  1. Pingback: Brian Eno & Karl Hyde – High Life | Free City Sounds·

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