To say that Byrne/Eno have a history that precedes them is an understatement. Eno’s three album run with Talking Heads was possibly more inspiring than even his three album sequence with David Bowie, even though in both cases each of the artists made what I consider to be their best albums with Eno in the booth. I have loved “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” ever since its date of issue. It was the bomb upon its release and in the intervening years, its stature has only grown. When I heard that Byrne and Eno had made another album together after a layoff of 27 years I was trepidatious. I have not enjoyed anything Byrne has done in that time. Worse, when Eno linked up again with David Bowie in 1995 for the “1: Outside” album for the first time in almost 20 years, the results were bracingly awful. Could David Byrne, an artist I’d written off by 1985, and Brian Eno make anything that I’d respond to? Well, I waited a decade to find out for a dollar.
#20 • David Byrne + Brian Eno: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today US CD 
- My Big Nurse
- I Feel My Stuff
- Everything That Happens
- Life Is Long
- The River
- Strange Overtones
- Wanted For Life
- One Fine Day
- Poor Boy
- The Lighthouse
I was arrested by the melodic similarities of the opener “Home” to a cut from the 2005 Eno solo album; “How Many Worlds.” These tracks were all accumulated instrumentals that David Byrne offered to write lyrics and sing for, so it’s very possible that the melody dated from the same period of genesis for the “Another Day On Earth” album. The similarity was surprising, but the musical sophistication and vocals by Byrne here took the music to a higher plane. While I had always liked “Another Day On Earth,” this was music that had a similar DNA but was in every more accomplished!
It helped that the largely one-man crew of the earlier album was replaced here by musicians like Leo Abrahams and Steve Jones [not the Sex Pistol] who by now have had long and storied careers with Eno. More importantly than anything,, the use of live drums on each song gave the music a depth and grounding that was largely missing from “Another Day On Earth.” The conceit was that these were electro-folk-gospel tunes in keeping with Eno’s taste for gospel; which was ironically down to his romping around with Talking Heads in the late 70s. Of course, they were gospel largely in style only in that the vocals were the melodic focus of the music. Any sacred aspects were only fleetingly alluded to in the lyrics.
The music here was familiar but with sonic left field twists adding frissons of dissonance to what was largely familiar melodic territory; further tweaked by Bryne’s lyrics, which seemed to have lost nothing in their laterally creative wordplay in the decades I have been paying no attention to his output. “I Feel My Stuff” was the first opus here. Byrne attacked the vocals on this long 6:30 number by creative “movements” that mirrored the twists and turns of the music bed and it was a delight hearing him assume clearly different personae [with corresponding treatments] in the singing of it. Listening to this, one had the feeling that anything was capable of happening.
The lilting title track sported gorgeous, long sustain “water guitars” by Eno and “coin guitars” by Abrahams; whatever that meant. All I know was that it was lovely. Yeah, I could hear the gospel there, but other parts of this album point to the rhythm and blues that I grew up with, as with “Life Is Long.” The real brass here by a four man section arranged by Dan Levine sound particularly life affirming. As with the whole album, the lyrics and singing by Byrne might subvert the intellectual content of what music that sounds like this normally has, but the feel is seamless until you probe beneath the surface. It’s a fascinating blend of mid-70s rhythm + blues with art rock.
“Strange Overtones” has a vibe not a million miles away from the proto-disco R+B of The Hues Corporation’s “Rock Your Boat.” And yet it still has fascinatingly meta-descriptive lyrics like…
“This groove is out of fashion
These beats are 20 years old
I saw you lend a hand to
This one’s standing out in the cold” – “Strange Overtones”
This album is as different to “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” as possible, but while it does not push boundaries like that record, it remains a more subdued, yet vital example of collaboration between Byrne and Eno. Eno has this music in him but dislikes lyrics and singing. We’re lucky that Byrne posed the idea of taking his accumulated tracks and taking them someplace where the music beckoned. Now I feel bad about blowing off the Byrne concert in Asheville back in 2008 when he was touring this album. Holy jeez! I just looked at the set list. Now I feel awful.
How I wish I had jumped on this album immediately upon release. I would have considered going to the show – provided tickets were not three figures and up as Byrne’s last appearance in our city, this spring, was. Hell, I was thinking about going to that before I saw ticket prices! My big problem [hmm, a Byrne song title…] was that I had written off Byrne’s Latin music career as being a non-event with me. As far as I knew, everything he did after Talking Heads was Tropical in nature. And it just didn’t work for me. At all. But this album works like a charm! It’s another winning Eno collaborative effort to stand with “Bush Of Ghosts,” “Wrong Way Up” and “Someday World.”
CONCLUSION: enjoy… a lot