I barely finished listening to Byrne’s new album and really felt compelled to post a preliminary, reactionary, review. To preface, a few notes. My reviews are usually picked randomly either from shuffling my iTunes and choosing from what’s played or ‘blindly’ pulling a record off from the shelf. I think to give a thorough review, music should be listened to several times, under different conditions and at least once actively, to form a comprehensive and truly considered opinion. First impressions are not always best. Sometimes music grows on you, and other times repeated listenings can reveal imperfections first overlooked. To reiterate; this is not my final verdict on David Byrne’s American Utopia. It may come up eventually on a random album review, and my feelings may have changed.
This album sucked. It was a struggle to get through. From the opening track, “I Dance Like This”, I was turned very much off. Full disclosure- I’m not a huge fan of Byrne or Talking Heads to begin with. At their best, they are catchy, danceable, and interesting. At his/their worst, I find the music annoying and draining. As hard as I listened with an open mind, I could not escape the latter feeling.
At this point in the review, you might be done. Benefit of the doubt, please. It’s not that Byrne’s music is ‘too sophisticated’ for me to understand. It’s not that he’s ‘too weird’ for my tastes. None of his general merits are put to good use. None of his often good word-play is utilized. Instead, what’s pressed is two songs in a row with lyrics about dogs that wants to be far more profound than the terribly juvenile musings that they are. I don’t doubt the I mention is in the right place, but songs like “Everyday is a Miracle” make me sick to my stomach.
Was there anything I liked? “Doing the Right Thing” wasn’t bad. I kinda liked “Everybody’s Coming to My House”. Neither is a masterpiece by any measure, but listenable, decent only in that they stand head and shoulders above too thick shit, not in any grand scheme of things or in comparison to Byrne’s back catalogue. Which brings me to my last point, charity and goodwill. Just because the man had hits in the past should not excuse or shield him from criticism of this work, in its own merit. I’m glad he didn’t churn out an easy so special comeback album but that doesn’t mean I need to cut him slack for for choices that don’t work, either.
After finishing the album, unfortunately to quote Byrne, my “mind is a soft boiled potato.”
P.S.- I’m new at blogging, so here’s the ineloquent amazon associates disclaimer:
“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”
Basically, if you use my link to buy the album, I get a small cut!