David Byrne’s distinctive vision â€“ a winsomely-skewed clarity â€“ is usually most compelling when trained on scary stuff, be it psycho killers, zealous baptism metaphors, warning signs of things to come, or the sudden strangeness of one’s beautiful house and beautiful wife. Lately, we’ve no shortage of scary stuff, and it’s encouraging that Byrne’s latest solo set is willing to go there. When it does, rhythms and racket ratcheting up accordingly, American Utopia â€“ abetted by an old comrade (Brian Eno, contributing beats) and new ones (Daniel “Oneohtrix Point Never” Lopatin, Sampha/XX producer Rodaidh McDonald) â€“ boasts some of the most exciting music Byrne has made in years.
Thebalance of light and dark is especially compelling on “Bullet,” atravelogue of just that (“His skin did part in two/Skin that women hadtouched”) and “Everybody’s Comin’ to My House,” a sort ofagoraphobic’s kidnapping fantasy. There are ambient meditations as well asbracingly kinetic moments, like the electronic freakout in “Doing theRight Thing,” and the chorus outbursts on “I Dance Like This,”which conjure the datastorm of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts andthe disorientation of Fear of Music‘s “Drugs.” Byrnedelivers some impressively wicked guitar outbursts, too. But the franticsegments generally recede too soon, supplanted by more less-anxious downtempobits. Often, in the spirit of Byrne’s inspiring Reasons to Be Cheerful website and lecture tour, these are inspiring, i.e., the deliciously slo-mo soca groove of “Every Day Is a Miracle.” Forthis writer, however, the most agitated parts are the most comforting. Maybe Ishould see someone about this. Yet it speaks to an artist who’s long made acareer of transforming uneasiness into bliss. In Byrne’s work, anxiety alwaysloves company.
This article originally appeared on www.rollingstone.com: Review: David Byrne Throws a Weird Party in His Mind on ‘American Utopia’