David Byrne and Brian Eno found renewal in Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

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Blending rock, folk, electronica, gospel and these indescribably ethereal flourishes, David Byrne and Brian Eno again did something together on Everything That Happens Will Happen Today that they couldn’t have done with the Talking Heads — or on their own.

Byrne stood out within the nihilistic post-punk period because of his childlike approach — best heard here on the 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 much later with this album’s “Stange Overtones” and “I Feel My Stuff.” But where David Byrne’s old band tended to linger in a deep but familiar groove, his solo recordings with Brian Eno move off into crisper, more intellectual shadings, as well.

In keeping, there was no small amount of inventiveness on Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, released on August 18, 2008. Dotted with vocals recorded for ambient Brian Eno soundscapes over the course of a year, the project made interesting use of the offbeat, of noise, of found-object sounds. There was this smeared synthesizer, and some captured reverb, used as a rhythm track on “Home,” and a dissonant piano on “Stuff,” admittedly weird flourishes on “Overtones” and a surprising, almost Biblical feel on “One Fine Day.”

Brian 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 David Byrne, the then-decades-old triumph My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Eno’s similar sense of wide-eyed discovery, through chords and structure and sound, was still a contagious joy, too.

Not that they ignored the troubling times we live in; but those concerns never slowed Everything That Happens Will Happen Today – much less stopped it. “I Feel My Stuff,” for instance, becomes ever more confrontational, a hardening that played out in the increasing echo of David Byrne’s vocal and then a skittering guitar solo. By the end, this song had 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 stirred in thoughts on the Katrina disaster, had a similar resiliency.

But then there’s “Overtones,” which unfolded like an tone poem, musical but relentless. The title track provided a different kind of epiphany, with dark swirling keyboards juxtaposed against sing-songy verses filled with soaring delight. “I’m lost,” David Byrne sang during the bracing “Life is Long,” “but I’m not afraid.” It’s that kind of youthful wonder — everything that happens, every setback, is met with an insistent belief in renewal and rebirth — that buoys Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

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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