One Track Mind: David Byrne, "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)" (2011)

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David Byrne does some intriguing new things with this live update of “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody),” from the Talking Heads’ 1983 release Speaking in Tongues.

Now the title song for a new musical drama by Paolo Sorrentino starring Sean Penn, “This Must Be the Place” finds Byrne hiccuping and barking, adding snarky asides, seeming to barely catch himself from falling over after a series of jerky phrases. In other words, he sounds exactly, perfectly the same. Byrne’s voice has been remarkably untouched in the interim space between that Reagan-era recording and this new edition.

The track retains its jalopy beat too, shambling and rattling to the point of things popping off the frame, but Byrne adds a surprisingly oaken, Americana feel — with yelping strings in place of the squiggly keyboards that defined the Talking Heads’ original. It’s startlingly effective, like hearing “This Must Be The Place” for the first time all over again …

As sinewy, and utterly new as this quirk-filled amalgam once seemed — a space-rock vocal, over a jungle rhythm, with an overlay of ironic new-wave instrumentation? — “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)” may be the most, well, normal thing on this soundtrack.

See, the album has six songs credited to … ahem, the Pieces Of Shit. Will Oldham handles the lyrics, Byrne wrote the music and the Irish singer Michael Brunnock is at the mic. They do five originals, as well as a cover of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s 2006 song “Lay & Love.” Other soundtrack highlights include Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” from 1977’s Lust for Life.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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