By Nick Deriso
Blending rock, folk, electronica, gospel and these indescribably ethereal flourishes, David Byrne and Brian Eno again do something together that they couldn't have done with Talking Heads — or on their own.
Byrne stood out within the nihilistic post-punk period because of his childlike approach — best heard on this new release's lullaby-like "My Big Nurse."
There was, it's easy to see now, a touching innocence to much of the Heads' most lasting efforts. Well, lyrically and vocally, anyway. The music (produced in its hey day by Eno) from this group of art-school musicians often followed a more-expected rhythmic framework — and it made for perhaps the most danceably inventive music of its time.
That plays out on popular Talking Heads cuts like "Once in a Lifetime" and "Burning Down the House," then more forcefully on the solo hit by band alumni Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz (as the Tom Tom Club) called "Genius of Love," and finally here on "Stange Overtones" and "I Feel My Stuff."
But where Byrne's old band tended to linger in a deep but familiar groove, his recordings with Eno move off into crisper, more intellectual shadings, as well. In keeping, there is no small amount of inventiveness on "Everything That Happens," featuring vocals recorded for ambient Eno soundscapes over the course of a year.
I was struck by their interesting use of noise — this smeared synthesizer, some captured reverb — as a rhythm track on "Home," the dissonant piano on "Stuff," admittedly weird flourishes on "Overtones"(embedded below), and a surprising, almost Biblical feel on "One Fine Day."
Eno's knob-turning brilliance, of course, has always been to take a vibe and file its edges — and that's as true today as it was on his previous duo collaboration with Byrne, the 27-year-old triumph "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts."
Eno's similar sense of wide-eyed discovery, through chords and structure and sound, is still a contagious joy, too.
Not that they ignore the troubling times we live in.
"Stuff," for instance, becomes ever more confrontational, a hardening that plays out in the increasing echo of Byrne's vocal and then a skittering guitar solo. By the end, this song has no soft corners. It's as absorbing as it is challenging — a meditation on a world gone wrong that still finds a path to the beginnings of a smile. "The River," which stirs in thoughts on the Katrina disaster, has a similar resiliency.
"Overtones," meanwhile, is like an tone poem, musical but relentless. The title track provides a different kind of epiphany, with dark swirling keyboards juxtaposed against sing-songy verses filled with soaring delight.
"I'm lost," Byrne sings during the bracing "Life is Long," "but I'm not afraid."
It's that kind of youthful wonder — everything that happens, every set back, is met with an insistent belief in renewal and rebirth — that even now gives music by both Eno and Byrne its lasting heft.
Purchase: David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Byrne and Eno did something interesting with this release: Nothing. It was originally available, sans marketing campaign, through the Everything That Happens website. It was free for streaming, or it could be downloaded digitally ($8.99, including a lyric booklet), digitally with a physical CD to be shipped at the end of November ($11.99) or as a deluxe version for $69.99 that includes four bonus tracks, a short film about the album, a hard-bound book, screen saver and other extras.