30 Days: 30 Albums | David Byrne + Brian Eno – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

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.

Todomundo ‎| US | CD | 2008 | TODO 002

#20 David Byrne + Brian Eno: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today US CD [2008]

  1. Home
  2. My Big Nurse
  3. I Feel My Stuff
  4. Everything That Happens
  5. Life Is Long
  6. The River
  7. Strange Overtones
  8. Wanted For Life
  9. One Fine Day
  10. Poor Boy
  11. 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

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5 Responses to 30 Days: 30 Albums | David Byrne + Brian Eno – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

  1. SimonH says:

    I love 1. Outside, but never clicked with this album, will try again. Byrne live is a wonderful
    experience, forget the Latin thing.

    Like

  2. Gavin says:

    I am like Simon-heard this album at time of release and it did nothing for me,whereas 1.Outside is easily my fave album by The Dame!
    I like the odd thing by Byrne on his various collaborative releases/Talking Heads,but he is not someone I have ever really felt anything for as an artist,though he is certainly interesting.
    “Bush of Ghosts” I do agree is a masterpiece however.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – Woah! We are apparently at opposite ends of the Bowie spectrum!! Who’d have thought? I actually think that “1. Outside” has 5-7 top flight Bowie songs on it; infinitely more than his other terrible EMI albums! But the rest of the stuff surrounding them is awful beyond belief to my ears. I have the biggest problem with the narrative [or is that anti-narrative?] conceits that drove the whole project.

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  3. I loathed this album when it came out because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, which was “more songs like the incredible My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.” A few years later — after Another Day on Earth most likely — I decided to give the album another chance, approached it from a fresh mindset, and enjoyed it a great deal more.

    Byrne solo has been intermittently interesting to me over the years since breaking up the TH (which I will never forgive him for, though I’m a wee bit softer on him since he agreed to reunite the band for their RnR Hall of Fame appearance), but he went from being always-interesting to being intermittently-interesting, which was troubling. The most recent stuff I’ve heard from him (since Everything That Happens) I’ve liked more.

    As for Outside, I’ve never cared for records I thought were trendily over-produced, so while the material on Outside was very strong IMO, the production and conceits of making it into a narrative/cyberpunk musical never sat well with me (not unlike Earthling). I like it much better now than I did at the time, because again I was expecting something purely brilliant as previous Bowie/Eno collabs had been. Those sorts of expectations are a bitter pill to swallow and get over once you’ve formed them. Looking back, though, it and Buddha of Suburbia were the real fuel for his triumphant return as a serious artist, with (for me) Hours completing his return as a reliable performer.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – I didn’t like “Earthling” until I saw that tour. Then I did an about face. But yeah, “Hours” was ultimately the compelling album I had been waiting for. Or basically, Bowie not especially bandwagon jumping at that stage of the game was a relief. “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today” plays for me like the superior sequel to “Another Day On Earth.” Equally good music, but better lyrics/singing and vastly superior arrangements/musicianship. Too much of “Earth” is loops but the live musician on “Everything” make it come alive for me. Then Byrne helped knock it out of the park. After ignoring it for the same reason why you initially disliked it, actually hearing it was very compelling for me. I really regret not seeing that concert here in town. The set list kills me.

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