David Byrne

American Utopia

Written by: MIN on 28/03/2018 16:30:19

These past few years, we’ve received some amazing outputs by several of the greats: Iggy Pop released the excellent ”Post Pop Depression” and both Nick Cave and David Bowie created masterpieces that rank among their finest offerings. This leads us to the new album by the former Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne, who’s recently released his first solo album in fourteen years, titled “American Utopia”. With a legacy such as his, expectations are high when looking at the aforementioned artists’ ability to remain relevant, and it’s therefore with slight disappointed that I can tell you, dear reader, that no, “American Utopia” does not fall into the same category as the latest albums by neither Pop, Cave or Bowie. Byrne’s latest effort isn’t necessarily a bad one – in fact, the music throughout is both infectious, playful and somewhat clever – but his otherwise famous wordplay and lyrical craftsmanship is of a lackluster character, despite his intentions of raising awareness about inequality, over-mediation and other hot topics.

Sometimes things are strange right from the get-go, such as in “Every Day is a Miracle”, where Byrne imagines what heaven is like to a chicken; at other times it takes a while for the concept to break down. The song’s title aside, “Dog’s Mind” starts pretty well with a crackling, synth-laden soundscape, sending one’s thoughts straight to that of Joe Strummer’s “Ramshackle Day Parade”, but suddenly the politically aware lyricism that’s launched the song starts philosophizing about the dogs outside congress’ windows instead of addressing the actual issues at hand: “We are dogs in our own paradise // in a theme park of our own // doggy dancer doing doody // doggy dreaming all day long”. Sure, if you think about it long enough (read: if you want to), there’s a connection between the strains inside our troublesome society compared to the freedom of a dog playing happily in a park, but it feels like Byrne’s shot himself in the foot by trying to be overly profound instead of just seeing eye-to-eye with his listeners: things simply get too weird.

There are times, though, where Byrne gets the formula right. “Gasoline and Dirty Sheets” is both exciting musically while managing to provide some decent lyrics that, less obscurely, manage to pinpoint Byrne’s political agenda on “American Utopia”:

This situation drags me down // they form a country in my house // on the stage and in the street // I will be a human being // […] Gasoline and dirty sheets // politics and a painted face // she says that freedom costs too much // she says the mind is not a place

Back to the music at hand, there’s thankfully much to be excited about on “American Utopia”. It’s danceable and experimental, funky and electronic. Album-opener “I Dance Like This” provides a schizophrenic switch from somber piano to dizzying beats, while “Everybody’s Coming to My House” makes your legs restless by virtue of brass ensembles and jittery sound effects. Constantly fluttering somewhere between Beck, LCD Soundsystem and Talking Heads, Byrne manages to create an exciting, eccentric and artistic experience that could’ve elevated this album among the greats if only he didn’t insist on creating such strange scenarios.


Download: Gasoline and Dirty Sheets, Everybody’s Coming to My House
For The Fans Of: Talking Heads, Beck, David Bowie
Listen: Facebook

Release date 09.03.2018
Nonesuch Records Inc.

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