May 01, 2004

David Byrne stories

So the new David Byrne CD, Grown Backwards, has been getting played a lot here this week, although, honestly, it's not as good as Look Into the Eyeball was. (It does have a surprising connection to another CD I bought this week, the new They Might Be Giants single -- they were both recorded by Pat Dillett; and, yeah, some of the horn sections on the new David Byrne CD sound downright TMBG-ish.)

Part of the reason the new David Byrne just isn't as exciting as the last one is that, well, after you've released a CD that's a stunning return to form, what can you do? You've already had your stunning return to form. Now the best you can do is keep it up. The rest of the problem is that a lot of the melodies on the new CD are incredibly reminiscent of songs from the last one. You can practically sing "The Neighborhood" in unison with the new song "Civilization". It's unfortunate. (And the cover is yet another big close-up of David Byrne's head, but I think that's gone past unoriginal and has turned into a tradition.)

The highlights are worth it, though. I loved the string section he had with him on tour last year, and it's great to have them featured on so many songs. (I wish he had included live versions of "I Want to Dance With Somebody" and the string-section version of "Life During Wartime" as extra tracks, but that's another story.) And his duet with Rufus Wainwright on an aria by Bizet? I honestly think that ought to be the single. It's terrific. If the CD had arrived in time, I might have made that song my selection for Music Club. (My actual selections, if you're curious, were Quruli and the Ukrainians.)

But all this David Byrne action is making me want to drag out some old Talking Heads CDs to listen to, and there are some Talking Heads LPs I have never bothered to repurchase on CD. Admittedly, they're not the most important chapters in the Talking Heads oeuvre, but I am an obsessive completist. I might pick up Naked, which I like better than most people do, but I think I would like the current fad for reissues to catch up with True Stories before I repurchase it. Even David Byrne wishes he hadn't released the album with his vocals replacing the vocals of the actors from the film. seems like that is fixable. Release the album as a double CD. On CD one, put the original album, then a pause, then follow it up with the film versions of the songs that featured different vocalists. CD two can be "Sounds from True Stories", a charming and completely forgotten collection. I'm not sure it was ever even issued on CD. Come on, music industry. Get it together. (Or at least give me a job compiling reissues.)

For those of you who've stuck it out to the end of this Byrne-a-thon, here's a reward. An old Talking Heads live cover version of 1910 Fruitgum Company's 1-2-3 Red Light". Enjoy it until I cruelly take it away in a few days. (A few days came and went, and I was soft-hearted...but those days are now gone.)

Posted by Francis at 01:37 AM