Published on September 7th, 2018


Before Eddie Vedder, before Radiohead, before Local Natives, there was Talking Heads, and, essentially, there was David Byrne.

Leader of the powerhouse group that influenced countless modern musicians, Byrne defined — and redefined — New Wave, incorporating world music, art rock and punk into the Talking Heads’ expansive works. As that band’s frontman, and then on his own, he perpetuated a clean-cut image of sharp suits and programmed movement — an automaton dressed and directed by outside forces.

At age 66, Byrne is still flaunting his quirky style with “American Utopia,” his first solo album in 14 years. And in a season of political conflict, social upheaval and environmental turmoil, Byrne’s new collection gives off hope and optimism. The album is in turn part of a larger project called “Reasons to be Cheerful,” an Ian Dury-inspired catalog of good news and uplifting community initiatives — undertaken “as a kind of remedy and possibly as a kind of therapy,” Byrne has said.

DAVID BYRNE by Jody Rogac

One such story was jumpstarted by Byrne himself, with his invitation to voice students and their teacher at the Detroit School of Arts to reinterpret one of his new songs, “Everybody’s Coming to My House.” The students’ version, filmed for YouTube by the school’s broadcast students, is a high school social — part gospel, glee club and show tune. The album version is a straight-up party track, with Byrne as a soulful emcee declaring, “Everybody’s Coming to My House/I’m never gonna be alone.” His longtime collaborator and producer Brian Eno is present, too, as the author of the robotic guitar riff that dots the song’s insistent groove.

The album often celebrates the pleasures of escape and of basking in the present moment. On “I Dance Like This,” a carefree Byrne sings, “I dance like this because it feels so damn good / Can’t think of tomorrow, when it seems so far away.”

The accompanying tour finds Byrne and his band in matching gray suits executing multiple  formations on stage, and playing both solo and Talking Heads’ songs. The reviews have been glowing. Byrne, it seems, is still burning down the house, and he hasn’t stopped making sense.

David Byrne and special guest tune-yards perform Sept. 29 at The Fillmore Miami Beach.  davidbyrne.com ~ Olivia Feldman

Clip to Evernote