That solitary feeling
BYRNE'S back. What's new? Words: Alastair Mabbott
It’s a while since we last had a record from Paul Simon . . . but if uptown. genre-crossing songwriting is your bag. there‘ll be another one along in a moment. most likely from David Byrne. Since Talking Heads first started incorporating African grooves into their music (before then. in fact. if you count ‘Take Me To The River“). Byrne has used non- white rhythms and textures to transcend and escape his image as the uptight. introverted geek. His solo career has presented us with the talented. intellectual musician who can never let it hang out quitefar enough.
At least his love for South American music isn't a put-on: his Luaka Bop label has been pumping out a steady stream of Brazilian and Cuban releases. even if Byrne himself will never sound natural singing in those styles. That tension’s been at the heart of his solo records. nowhere more so than in 1991’s brassy. Latin Ulz-()/z. where his attempts at sounding carefree on tracks like ‘Now I‘m Your Mom' and ‘Girls On My Mind‘ chimed strangely with our stubborn perception that David sodding Byrne had far weightier things on his mind than that. His jollin has always sounded hollow and forced. and the eponymous David Byrne album of 1994 was a sparser. more sombre affair. its ethnic influences delicately dappled rather than laid on with a trowel.
The new album. l‘t’t’lillgh‘. however much it may sound like PR-speak. is his most diverse offering yet.
Byrne has used non-white rhythms and textures to transcend and escape his image as the uptight, introverted geek.
David Byrne mixes with collaborators Morcheeba
For this one. he used a variety of different bands depending on whatever treatment he felt the songs needed. So. as if fulfilling Robert Fripp's stated ambition of ﬁfteen years ago or more to be a ‘small. highly mobile. intelligent unit’. he glides between several line-ups. Feelings opens with the slinky trip hop sound of London’s Morcheeba before settling into the feisty Latin groove of ‘Miss America’ (in which the Dumbarton-born singer laudany slips in the line ‘l'll be your teenage fanclub‘). Later. ‘The Civil Wars‘ sounds like a dead ringer for Frank Black. and a soundscape by Devo — yes. Devo — segues into The Balanescu Quartet.
This is a good thing. Such variety renders Byrne less boring than he threatened to become now that the flash of excitement that accompanied his initial embrace of South American culture. has long since dissipated. But the truth has to be faced that he has written little in the way of classic songs since his Talking Heads days. Byrne‘s records are always listenable. but one can‘t help harking back to the days
when songs of the stature of
‘Psycho Killer“. ‘Once In A Lifetime’ and ‘Road To Nowhere' rolled out of him in a seemingly unstoppable stream of inspiration.
These days. it’s in his excellent live shows rather than his records that David Byrne starts making sense again. The records invite too much analysis and. as the geeky introvert has become looser and looser over the years. the focus of his music has increasingly become the communion with a live audience. It‘s the missing part of the equation that is so crucial to the styles of music that he‘s grown to love over the past decade. and it‘s there. with a crowd making up the fourth wall. that we can see him sweat. make those absurd shrieks and. above all. interact.
David Byrne plays Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Sun 27 Jul.
preview MUSIC) Bigmouth
Confucius, he say many wise
things. Rock star, he talk a lot of old bollocks.
'Ah gotta do market research every damn week, with a funny name, funny national insurance number an' everything! Ah bin talkin’ to people about Bacon—flavoured Quavers for the last nine months.’ The Reverend D. Wayne Love of the Alabama 3 explains the trials and tribulations that a would-be international rock star, sex-god and life style guru has to experience before hitting the big time.
’Here Marie. someone's thrown you a pair of keks on stage just like Tom Jones. Euurgh! They're wet. Grey, dirty, wet grundies. Some girls have all the luck.’
Laverne of Kenickie gets down to some hardcore pant action during her set at Tin the Park.
’Get up at six o’clock in the morning. Jog around the park. Shit and fart all day. No.1ust sit in, really. I am normal, I'm just a normal lad, but life’s fast. Watch Neighbours. I'm sick of Neighbours, though!
Liam Gallagher gives NME a demonstration of just how short his attention span really is.
‘Once eighteen musicians appeared. It was a mess. Only ten people came to watch. It’s a rule with me not to play if the band can beat up the audience.’
Mike Doughty, singer with Soul Coughing underlines the fundamental problem with an open stage policy — aspiring musicians are often more enthusiastic than their would-be audience.
’l've never been hip, even when l was successful. I was always considered to be a bit quirky and odd, but over the years it developed into blatant piss-taking.’ Gary Numan considers his lack of popularity, if not record sales, in the light of a forthcoming album of covers.
’Being a pop star is a rather pompous position and you are lulled into a false sense of security. There’s always yes men around you telling you that you’re fabulous. And you're an idiot if you believe it.’
John Lydon reveals to the NME that his paranoia is as necessarily acute as ever.
Jul—l Aug i997 THE usrsa