- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

David Byrne and Brian Eno
Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

After 30 years, the collaboration between art rocker and world music impresario David Byrne and uber-producer Brian Eno is still bearing fruit.

This isn’t a sequel to their 1981 album, “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,” or a retread of Mr. Eno’s work as producer for the Talking Heads in the late 1970s and early 1980s. What’s new on “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today” is a kind of mellowness and sweetness that’s almost jarring, considering the off-kilter angularity that typifies Mr. Byrne’s output and Mr. Eno’s edgy, sonic artistry.

By the pair’s own account, Mr. Eno confined himself to writing and arranging the music, while Mr. Byrne focused on the lyrics and the singing - and much of Mr. Eno’s music had been composed with no particular project in mind. This makes trying to separate the music from Mr. Byrne’s vocal melodies an interesting exercise.

Some of the best tracks are reassuringly songlike, and some are wildly meandering, with shifting instrumentation and themes. That Mr. Byrne could find lyrics to fit the coolly discursive “Feel My Stuff” can only be a tribute to the familiarity and understanding that comes from their decades-long collaboration.

The six-minute track begins with a lush, patterned riff tapped out on the high end of a piano that gradually blends with a seductive trance beat. Before long, the rhythm shifts to a funky, brusque palm-muted guitar that trades lines with an electric bass. Mr. Byrne’s disconnected, imagistic lyrics mirror the musical instability.

The title track has an intentionally otherworldly aspect named “electronic gospel” by Mr. Eno on his brief but excellent notes on the album’s Web site. The song mixes soft, steady guitar; the light tinkle of piano; and an intense organ and captures the gospel mix of ethereal and worldly. This gospel isn’t in the service of any particular faith, but its slow, insistent strength seems like a neat bookend for the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime.”

During his Talking Heads incarnation, Mr. Byrne sang like a man stirred to heights of ecstatic panic over the collision of mortality with the repetition of everyday life.

Now he sounds older, wiser and mordantly resigned as he sings, “Everything that happens will happen today/ And nothing has changed, but nothing’s the same/ And every tomorrow could be yesterday/ And everything that happens will happen today.”

“Strange Overtones” and “Life Is Long” sound like lost Talking Heads songs - the first mixing Third World rhythms, shimmering funk chords and a trove of obscure electronic instruments from Mr. Eno’s studio, including the stylophone and an Omnichord “key-tar.” The second pairs a deceptively simple rhythm with a growling brass section that conveys both doubt and uplift.

Mr. Byrne’s voice here is the same as it ever was - detached, authoritative and unmistakable.

There are some skippable tracks here, to be sure. Yet on balance, “Everything That Happens” captures some of that off-kilter jubilation that marks the pair’s earlier collaborations.

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