LOOK INTO THE EYEBALL
David Byrne stopped making sense a long time ago, but he’s never abandoned his search for deeper meanings in the music of other cultures, or his mission to open American ears to those sounds. Over the past decade, his best work in that regard hasn’t necessarily been on his own albums but on the CDs by artists like the Brazilian tropicália legend Tom Zé and the sitar-slinging British indie-rock band Cornershop, both of whom his Luaka Bop label has released. Even with Talking Heads, Byrne came through with his best stuff when he stopped trying to make pan-cultural sense of the worlds of music he’d discovered and just let it all flow into deceptively simple pop tunes.
Look into the Eyeball, Byrne’s sixth solo outing since the demise of Talking Heads, is looser, poppier, and more upbeat than any of the others. His arrangements remain enlightened by the smooth grooves and polyrhythms of Brazilian pop and the free-form funk of what the kids are calling rock en español: Caetano Veloso arranger Jacques Morelenbaum orchestrated the strings on the warm and breezy " Smile, " and " Desconocido Soy, " the first song Byrne’s ever written in Spanish, features a guest vocal by Rubén Albarrán from Café Tacuba (whom Byrne collaborated with on a song from the Red Hot + Latin compilation Silencio = Muerte in ’96). But the best parts of Look into the Eyeball hit closer to Byrne’s home (NYC these days). The playful single, " Like Humans Do, " is a lite funky one that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Talking Heads set circa ’84. And " Neighborhood " is an unabashed homage to classic Gamble-and-Huff-style Philly soul — it really makes no sense in the context of the rest of the disc. Which is sort of the point.
(David Byrne performs this Friday, May 11, at the Paradise. Call 617-423-NEXT.)
Issue Date: May 10 - 16, 2001