Saturday, August 30, 2008

Strange Overtones

I downloaded the new Brian Eno/David Byrne collaboration a few weeks ago, but hadn't listened to it much, until today. I was worried that it couldn't possibly live up to the high expectations I would have for it, given that their previous collaboration (twenty-seven years ago) was the brilliant My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Compounding my fears was the first track made available on their website, Strange Overtones. The lyrics recount Byrne hearing a song by his neighbour, thru the thin apartment walls. Lines like "this groove is out of fashion, these beats are twenty years old" only serve to remind how unlikely this all is to work. Byrne also seems to be singing in a key just out of his range, again highlighting the strained/forced feel of the project.

It's easy to mistake the first song from the record as the 'single', but this isn't the case here at all. Strange Overtones is only the first song to be released, and given away for free. So perhaps unfair to judge the record by.

I listened to the entire album, twice, today while hauling rocks (less fun, even, than it sounds) and it's surprisingly good. As expected, it does not come close to the brilliance of their former collaborations, but it is better than anything they've put out individually for about a decade. It also made me think that if all the stadium bands smart enough to hire Eno as producer (Coldplay, U2, etc.) were smarter, they would get him to sing back-up. His voice is represented here less than I would've liked (I was hoping for an equal balance - like his collaboration with John Cale, Wrong Way Up) but it adds an amazing warmth to an already warm record, whenever it appears.

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