By Robert Levine
David Byrne's new album, Feelings, is impressively eclectic, even by the high standards of an artist who went from playing innovative New Wave to experimenting with found sound to fronting a Latin band in the same decade. Working with collaborators such as Morcheeba, Devo, and DJ and programmer Hahn Rowe, Byrne borrows from drum and bass, Indian music and the kind of Latin rhythms he explored on Rei Momo – sometimes all in the same song.
Feelings is surprisingly coherent, considering its stylistic sprawl. And when it works, it's a marvel of musical collage: "The Gates of Paradise" sets drum-and-bass beats against roots-rock rhythms, "Finite = Alright" mixes quirky Talking Heads-style New Wave and staccato bursts of violin, and "Dance on Vaseline" punctuates futuristic beats with some funky horns. Even when Byrne doesn't succeed – on the rhythmic ballad "Amnesia," for instance – his failures are intriguing.
Byrne's lyrics also mix disparate sensibilities, conveying the inner feelings hinted at on songs like "My Love Is You," from his previous album, but with the emotional detachment and stamp-collector's attention to detail he displayed on the Talking Heads' opus More Songs About Buildings and Food: On the aforementioned "Finite = Alright," Byrne reassures himself that the world isn't too over-whelming a place by counting out "Three hundred fifty cities in the world/Just 30 teeth inside of our heads." "They Are in Love" reveals that "only love lets me forget who I really am" in a tender but dispassionate tone.
Such lyrical and musical juxtapositions could be a recipe for disaster, but on Feelings, Byrne manages to make them sound catchy rather than convoluted. At a time when his former band mates in Talking Heads are rehashing punk-era glory days, David Byrne has remained as original – though hardly the same – as he ever was.