By Rob Wynn
David Byrne adapts, explores and reworks spiritual themes and sounds in typically unusual and unforgettable fashion on these two new sets, with the first marking a long-awaited reunion with Brian Eno that took 27 years to happen.
But where their remarkable 1981 disc My Life in the Bush of Ghosts utilized contributions from 11 other musicians plus some other sonic odds and ends, this time it’s Byrne’s lyrics and leads that set the tone, fortified by Eno’s electronic backdrops.
Such tunes as “My Big Nurse,” “Everything That Happens," “Life is Long” and “The River” combine a spiritual focus and Byrne’s quite unique way of phrasing and delivering lines.
Hymnal features a collection of Byrne tracks primarily for the HBO show Big Love, and offer another variation on religious music, this time Mormon hymns. Songs like “Art Thou Greater Than He,” “A Hill in Ontario Country” or “Great Desolations” occupy a perch somewhere between esoteric avant-garde and weird pop arrangements, while the disc also contains some other recent pieces, including another quirky Byrne update of “Blue Hawaii.”
These sets demonstrate that there’s no limit to Byrne’s inventiveness or willingness to experiment with any and all genres and styles.