By David Marek
This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
It’s amazing what a couple decades can do. When we last left Brian Eno and David Byrne, it was 1981 and the two had just released My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, a funky postscript to the hallowed Talking Heads/Eno trilogy (More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music and Remain in Light). Their collaboration was a final pioneering burst of creative energy that broke ground by pairing found sounds with post-modern disco.
Listening to Everything that Happens Will Happen Today 20-or-so years later, it’s hard to believe that the same two musicians could make such disparate records. While Bush cast a wary eye towards the coming digital age, Everything that Happens Will Happen Today is an album that has come to terms with life during wartime and has actively embraced the future. Far from another disaffected funk romp,Everything that Happens is full of what Byrne has dubbed “electronic folk gospel.”
What we’re left with is a collection of sterile-but-usually-enjoyable Eno compositions that fade into the background, letting David Byrne’s lyrics take center stage. Eno’s contributions to the record are surprisingly forgettable and sound like emasculated Spiritualized arrangements from the ’90s. When Eno attempts to move outside of the comfortable, we get plodding tracks like “I Feel My Stuff,” a new-agey take on trip hop that’s just as awkward as that description indicates. And Eno’s one attempt at reclaiming to the two’s funky past, “Poor Boy,” feels like an afterthought for the old fans who stayed true.
But where Eno falters, Byrne picks up the slack. In a first for the notoriously skeptical artist, Everything that Happens is cautiously optimistic, maybe even hopeful. On “The River” Byrne sings “But a change is gonna come / Like Sam Cooke sang in ’63 / The river sings a song to me / On every St. Cecillia's Day.” Hearing this come from the same guy who used to write pessimistic love songs to skyscrapers and snacks isn’t just incredible, it’s downright staggering. And this could be the upside to a somewhat middling record. If Byrne—an artist that has always written music that’s a few years ahead of its time—is optimistic about the future, there may just be a bright cloud on the horizon. We can only hope.