American Utopia is David Byrne's eleventh studio album and his first solo album since 2004's Going Backwards fourteen years ago. Although this isn't to say he hasn't been busy in the mean time. David Byrne has been very active making collaborative albums with the likes of Brian Eno, Norman Cook, and St Vincent as well as writing the non-fiction book How Music Works in 2012 which combines music theory and biography to reflect not only the history of Byrne's group Talking Heads, but was also a deep investigation into the history of music itself. All these endeavours serve to inform and influence Byrne's latest project which manages to incorporate concepts of both paradise and politics into an album that feels especially relevant in 2018.
The album itself is part of a larger multimedia project called Reasons to be Cheerful (named after the Ian Dury song), which attempts to spread positivity in the modern world. The project deals with issues surrounding environmentalism, climate change, civic engagement and of course the transformative power of music. The project is an attempt to combat all the negativity that is so prevalent today and shine a light on all the aspects of society that we can be proud of. This is the kind of optimistic attitude which runs through much of American Utopia.
Individual tracks which stand out include:
“Everyday Is a Miracle” a groovy optimistic tune shining a light on the utter absurdity of modern life while at the same time celebrating it: 'Everyday is a miracle/Everyday is an unpaid bill/You've got to sing for your supper/Love one another”.
“Dog's Mind” imagines a presidents inauguration from the perspective of a dog, showing how while the human population is distracted by the political landscape which surrounds us we may be missing out on the beauty that's right in front of our eyes. 'To a place where nothing matters/Where the wheels of progress turn/Where reality is fiction/But the dogs show no concern.'
But the standout track is the albums lead single 'Everybody's Coming To My House' where Byrne manages to recapture most effectively his Talking Heads glory days, encapsulating the playful nature and the essence of the album as a whole. Both infectious and rhythmic with lots of sounds and instrumentation the song is endlessly danceable and perhaps more than anything demonstrates that at aged 65 Byrne can still deliver incredible music.
Words of Stephen Holland in our Dun Laoghaire branch.