Known Johnson

August 18, 2008

David Byrne & Brian Eno – Everything That Happens . . . available, you know, today!

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 4:14 pm

A lot has been made of this second pairing of David Byrne and Brian Eno, as if it’s another My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, but something important is being overlooked. Their first collaboration put the emphasis on “the Eno” – it was Brian Eno with David Byrne, and it sounds like it, being very experimental, daringly pushing boundaries. And that’s a great thing, if you’re a fan of “the Eno.” The opposite is true with Everything That Happens Will Happen Today – it is very much a David Byrne album with a lot of input from Brian Eno. And that’s a great thing indeed, too, especially if you’re a big fan of “the Byrne.”

If you signed up on the site, you were given access to “Strange Overtones,” an infectious, chiming-guitar laden tune that pokes a little fun at dated sounds not only in the lyrics but also in the music itself (dig that electronic “bell” sound that shows up in later verses, a sound that was so prevalent in 80s dance music – this after Byrne sings how “these beats are twenty years old.” It’s stuff like this that makes music great.) It seemed safe to assume that this was the direction the album was going to take, but you never know with guys like this.

After a few weeks of wondering exactly what this was going to be about, the day has arrived – and it’s kind of as expected, but still very, very cool. Three options (well, six, but I’ll get to that in a moment): digital (11 mp3s at 320kbps,) an 11-song CD (to be delivered in November) with previously mentioned mp3s available now, or the now de rigueur deluxe edition which features the CD with four extra songs, a short film about the album by Hillman Curtis, a special screensaver app (people still use those?) and the “Everything That Happens booklet,” whatever that means. Prices are, respectively, $8.99, $11.99, and (gulp) $69.99 – but you get that deluxe housed in a neat little circular diorama of a house on some pastoral land. It really does look nice – a real-life depiction of the Sims-looking house found on the album’s artwork.

The even nicer thing Byrne & Eno did is they offered buyers the option of grabbing their files in the form of FLAC in addition to mp3s . . . for free! When I saw the option at the bottom of the page, I prepared for the inevitable extra charge, but found myself shocked when no such charge was applied. Big thumbs up to these guys for not only “getting it” – the big stumbling block to moving ahead from traditional media from many like me has been being hobbled by mp3s – but doing so without gouging people for it. And what I just read is that the FLAC files are no mere simple WAVs but 48kHz/24bit – high resolution audio. I can’t make use of it right now, but for what is basically a give away download, this is above and beyond. I’ll keep these tucked safely away for when I do have a system that can present hi-rez audio. Thanks, guys.

I opted for “just” the regular CD with the mp3 and FLAC option as I can’t justify spending the extra $58 for four extra songs. I wanted very badly, but it just doesn’t make sense – that’s $14.25 a song. But what we get in the standard 11-song set is pure, unadulterated Byrne/Eno brilliance. Maybe it’s a little early to say it’s some of Byrne’s best material in a long time, but I feel confident saying it’s an album I’m going to be returning to slightly more often than his others – that Eno touch has done something amazing once again. What we get is late-model Byrne song-writing. This clearly isn’t Talking Heads – at most, you could suggest that Byrne has been working in Naked mode since they disbanded, and nothing here will trick anyone into thinking the Heads were back together.

If you’re a fan of Eno’s album with John Cale, Wrong Way Up, or Eno’s recent solo vocal album, Another Day On Earth, you may have an idea of what you’re getting, style-wise, with Everything That Happens. As David Byrne suggests, Eno was responsible for most of the music, while he merely contributed lyrics and tunes. Having only had it a number of hours, I really can’t say much about the whole other than that it’s beautiful. It might not be too early to say it’s some of Byrne’s best work in ages after all, and definitely will rank among the best of the year.


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