Everything That Happens Will Happen Today – David Byrne and Brian Eno
The return of David Byrne and Brian Eno to their respective recording studios to create a new album is both welcome and quite surprising. It has been over a quarter century since the duo released My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and, in fact, it was the re-release of that album which generated a new interest to work together. Eno had some tracks that required words, and off they wentByrne in his studio in New York, and Eno back home in England, along with a select handful of guest musicians.
Byrne has labeled these tunes gospel-folk-electronic music, and while that term applies, and there are subtle echoes from their previous album together, the current work is a unique collection emphasizing otherworldly rhythms within a terrestrial frame. The opening track Home lifts things off pretty well while Byrne keeps the esoteric musical passages reined in with an impassioned vocal. Truth be told, Byrne sounds inspired and full of the rapturous spirit which has sustained his career for over three decades. I Feel My Stuff combines Enos inhuman piano (his words, not mine), basses, drums, and other effects along with his former Roxy Music band mate Phil Manzanera on drone guitar. What is even more surprising is the way Byrne cops a few Robert Plant vocal moves and moody spatial nuances during this track. Heck, if the cat is still down the bluegrass duo road with Alison Krauss, Byrne might as well fill in the blanks in a parallel universe. He also sounds like a trippy, otherworldly (that word, again) preacher while lacing the song with a few layers of hand-taps-on-a-surface lyrical beats. Eno creates the requisite atmosphere as the song floats around the headphonesneither resolving the rhythmic hook, nor delivering a predictable verse-verse-chorus format. A pure gem.
Elsewhere, Everything That Happens shimmers along a U2 soundscape (Eno as their occasional producer, along with Daniel Lanois, feeds that heady influence), while Byrne delivers his own world musical left turn with one of his patented goosebump choruses: Oh my brother, I still wonder, are you alright? And among the living, we are giving, all through the night. At the end of the song, Byrne suggests with hopea word cynically tossed aside during these dark times but resurrected, nonethelessand evrything that happens, could happen today. So whatcha waitin for?
In the end, I could write a paragraph or three about each of the 11 tracks on their new Byrne/Eno album, but I would still circle back to the same thesisthere is nothing quite like hearing David Byrne singing inspired verses, choruses, and humorous and informed lyrics wedded to the wonderfully uplifting electronic textures of Brian Eno. This is gospel-folk-electronic music, but it is also the simple sound of two friends who missed each other, and art is the common denominator for them to communicate. To have this body of music and words as a testament to that fact is equally generous and fascinating. After all, at this late juncture in their mutual careers, the two artists could have traveled twin paths of self-indulgent trajectories up their own bum holes. Indeed, as the track One Fine Day rolls towards its conclusion, one can see that they just cant help themselvessometimes, witty, soulful music is enough to heal the soul. Sometimes, one just needs the other to help a song see the light of day.