Strange Overtones: The New Single From Eno and Byrne

A new track from Brian Eno and David Byrne (from their upcoming album, “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today”), and it’s a straightforward pop song.  If you say “quiet subversion”, I will slap you.  This is easily the most normal thing Eno has ever done, and Byrne’s voice just makes it more so.  His singing sounds vaguely like his work on Remain In Light, though considerably more mellow; even in the chorus where he gets more excited, he never gets completely unhinged, such as during the falsetto on “Crosseyed and Painless”.  The lyrics are vaguely dark, but also vaguely meaningless, without any of the darkly witty wordplay manifested on tracks like Eno’s “Baby’s On Fire” (They said you were hot stuff/And that’s what baby’s been reduced to) or Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer” (I can’t sleep cuz my bed’s on fire/Don’t touch me, I’m a real live wire).   Musically, it’s extremely calm, completely unlike Eno and Byrne’s last collaboration, the landmark “My Life In The Bush of Ghosts”, a frenzied cultural blitz of polyrhythms, sampled televangelists, and psychotically propulsive guitar and bass melodies.  There’s some synth melody, a distorted guitar line in the back of the mix that comes up a bit more in the chorus, and a drum track that sounds sampled.  It comes across as nothing groundbreaking, and retains none of the manic drive of Eno’s early pop work; there’s no sound as weird as the guitar on “Here Come the Warm Jets”, there’s nothing as disturbing as the vocal treatment on “Fat Lady Of Limbourg”, and there’s no melody as perfectly sublime as “I’ll Come Running”.   It’s not a bad track, it’s just… normal.  The good news is: it’s available for free on “http://everythingthathappens.com/”, and the entire album, (released on the 18th of August), will also be available free.  And this is the single, so I still have hopes that the album could be more… well, deranged.  Byrne made a career out of neuroticism, and before Eno plunged into blissful ambience, he was the violently insane (yet tuneful) dadaist in the glam camp.  This is where their best pop music comes from, but “Strange Overtones” is a little too well-adjusted for me.

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