Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McVie’s “On Repeat Play” Of The Moment

Some think that with the introduction of the “shuffle” feature in the iPod (and other mp3 players), the notion of listening to the tracks of an album in sequence is as Jurassic as a T-rex. Well, dinosaurs still fascinate a lot of folks, including Steven Spielberg and me.

Case in point: David Byrne and Brian Eno. The collaboration of the former lead singer of Talking Heads and the producer of seminal works by such 80s acts like U2, Devo and Ultravox prove to be an irresistible mix for someone whose musical tastes were heavily influenced by the sound of that decade. The album is Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, and there is joy in listening to the songs in sequence.

From the wistful “Home” that opens the album to the elegiac “The Lighthouse” that closes it, Byrne and Eno craft a musical soundscape that evokes a past era yet pitched perfectly in the present. The album’s tracks are not as obviously “programmed” as Coldplay’s Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends (another Eno co-production), but heard one after the other they gradually build up to an elegant majesty, the kind that makes one wistful once the last strains of the last cut fades out.

I particularly love the slower-tempo tracks, including “My Big Nurse” (country by way of Eno), “The River” (an elegant round song that flows just like, well, you know), “One Fine Day” (its mournful chorus will stick in your head upon first hearing) and the title track with its ending chorus that reaches up in redemption, something I never thought Byrne had in him during his Head days. In the website, both men admitted that the sound they eventually created skewed towards a “gospel-folk-electronic” direction, and those four songs are standout favorites.

The obvious breakout hit is “Strange Overtones” which combines Eno’s mastery of ambient structure with Byrne’s more playful songwriting that’s reminiscent of Talking Heads. And while Byrne acknowledges that “this groove is out of fashion / these beats are 20 years old”, one can’t help but marvel at how great the Byrne-Eno collaboration still sounds today. They may claim to be out of fashion, but they can still make it happen today.

Go to to find out more and listen to streaming music.


Leigh said...

Amen, McVie. :)

semi-precious said...

okay, you sold it to me.

even though "my life in the bush of ghosts" was completely lost on me.

joelmcvie said...

@SEMI-PRECIOUS: Actually, Byrne's lyrics can still be lost to you; I know they are on me, hahaha!

Most of my enjoyment with this album is really with Eno's music and snatches of lyrics (some elegant turns of phrases) by Byrne. Usually that's how I respond to songs: music first, lyrics next. If a song hooks me with the former and doesn't rattle my sensibilities with the latter, then I'm sold on it.

There are a couple of tracks that I'm not too fond of, but in an era where an album usually has three or four great tracks then the rest sound like fillers, then an album such as this (or Coldplay's latest) is (semi-)precious (wink, wink... hehehe).