Where to start with David Byrne?
August 4, 2008 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Where to start with David Byrne's post-Heads work?

The Talking Heads are easily my favorite band, but for some reason I've never really been interested in hearing David Byrne's later work.

I just heard "Strange Overtones", though, and I love it.

What's a good album to start my exploration of his later career?
posted by clcapps to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Byrne's 1981 project with Brian Eno(of Roxy Music)

is awesome
posted by mesh gear fox at 1:23 PM on August 4, 2008

Response by poster: I've heard My Life in the Bush of Ghosts - and yeah, it's awesome.

But I'm asking more about his song-based stuff, I guess..
posted by clcapps at 1:34 PM on August 4, 2008

Grown Backwards is a beautiful record. Start there.
posted by SansPoint at 1:41 PM on August 4, 2008

Byrne's 1981 project with Brian Eno(of Roxy Music) of about half of the music that has been popular in the last 20 years, including but not limited to to the start up sound for Windows.


But seriously, that record is amazing.
If you are looking for his most Talking Heads-y stuff, I'd go with 1981's The Catherine Wheel, which is so Talking Heads, two of its tracks are also on Stop Making Sense.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 1:41 PM on August 4, 2008

Fair enough. I would check out Rei Momo, which is the same old David Byrne mixed with Latin American sounds.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation is one of his better recent works (and features members of Belle & Sebastian and Mogwai)

Also recommended: Grown Backwards.
posted by mesh gear fox at 1:43 PM on August 4, 2008

Toe Jam - produced by Fatboy Slim, featuring David Byrne singing.

The video is probably NSFW, it contains nude people using the black censored boxes covering their bits in creative ways. Including (especially) playing naked Pong.
posted by TungstenChef at 2:00 PM on August 4, 2008

Also, I swear it has a cameo by our very own cortex at 2:41.
posted by TungstenChef at 2:04 PM on August 4, 2008

Ahhh, here's a question I can get into.

I love David Byrne's new material, but it's really not similar to his Talking Heads work at all. He's expressed in interviews that, when he looks back at his old work, he doesn't know what he was thinking and that he's incapable of writing like that now. It is understandable for a Talking Heads fan to dislike David Byrne's solo stuff. (But it is also wrong.)

Rei Momo was Byrne's first solo album after his TH work, and it drove a lot of listeners off. It's not so much that it was utterly unlike his previous TH music as it was a culmination of the direction that TH had been taking in their final albums that people tended not to like. Less disco, more goofy cha-cha. I wouldn't start with that one; it's not really representative of his solo stuff and I don't think it makes for a good transition from TH. (Good and Evil and Carnival Eyes are great songs though. Carnival Eyes was originally a Talking Heads song.) The problem is that David Byrne's TH lyrics have always been kind of goofy, but he used to take himself really art-school seriously. When he matured out of that, it made for a period where a lot of his songs are just... clownish. Uh-Oh is the apotheosis of this period; avoid that album entirely unless you want to hear a particularly embarrassing song about a sex change operation. (Best song from Uh-Oh: Tiny Town).

I'd say that Byrne's best album is Feelings. It's the one that got me hooked. Best songs: Miss America (possibly his best solo song), Burnt by the Sun

Then, probably Grown Backwards. Best songs: Lazy (another contender for best solo song), Civilization

Next up is Look into the Eyeball. Best songs: The Great Intoxication, Desconocido Soy, The Moment of Conception

Then Davidenryb. Good songs: Crash, Angels, You and Eye

My advice is to download the songs I listed, and go for the album that has the songs you most like.

You will also want to find the song God's Child which he sang with Selena. That song is gorgeous. I'm also ignoring his live albums and instrumental work. In Spite of Wishing and Wanting had some excellent instrumental tracks (Said and the Ants, Fear).
posted by painquale at 2:28 PM on August 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Listen to painquale. But I think you'll get a pretty good sense of everything he's tried to do between Rei Momo, Feelings, and Grown Backwards. All worth a listen.
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:32 PM on August 4, 2008

Representative tracks from (some of) his solo albums:

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (With Brian Eno) - America is Waiting
The Catherine Wheel - My Big Hands
The Knee Plays - Tree
Rei Momo - Dirty Old Town
uh oh - She's Mad
David Byrne - Angels
Look Into the Eyeball - Like Humans Do
Grown Backwards - Tiny Apocalypse

He really is due for a retrospective/best-of volume for his solo work.
posted by mykescipark at 2:41 PM on August 4, 2008

Ah, jesus, I forgot Feelings, but painquale mentioned Miss America, so here it is.
posted by mykescipark at 2:43 PM on August 4, 2008

I'm pretty much in love with David Byrne's post-Talking Heads work, in large part because it's all over the map, musically.

I'm doing this from memory because my iPod's in the car, but here are the albums I love:

The self titled David Byrne album vacillates between angular, Tom-Waits-ish pop music ("Back in the Box") and jangly rock-and/or-roll ("Angels")

Rei Momo is a herky-jerky tour through Central and South American music. There was a stretch in my life where I heard this at *every* party I went to, and that was a good stretch.

Feelings is D.B.'s (successful?) attempt at a electro-pop album. "Fuzzy Freaky" is still one of my favorite slow-melt summer jams.

I get painquale's beef with the totally dork-tacular lyrics on Uh-Oh, but "Somebody" is a really great song that saves the album for me.
posted by elmer benson at 2:49 PM on August 4, 2008

Well whatever you do, don't forget David's groundbreaking work documenting, producing and singing along with the indigenous hate songs of Springfield:

David's Finest Work IMHO
posted by rileyray3000 at 3:17 PM on August 4, 2008

My favorite Byrne album is The Forest.
posted by box at 3:34 PM on August 4, 2008

I came in to recommend Songs from The Knee Plays, but mykescipark beat me to it with his Tree suggestion. So I'm seconding it. The whole album is fun. I really liked:
The Sound of Business
In the Future
Social Studies
posted by dog food sugar at 4:33 PM on August 4, 2008

I just found copies of Songs from The Knee Plays and The Catherine Wheel on vinyl in my dad's garage. Awesome!
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 5:28 PM on August 4, 2008

The Catherine Wheel is fantastic, though solo, not so much post

The Knee Plays as well
posted by mattoxic at 5:29 PM on August 4, 2008

You already have too many responses, but my favorites of his solo work are The Catherine Wheel, Rei Momo, and Uh-Oh.
posted by dfan at 6:05 PM on August 4, 2008

I know you are asking specifically for albums, but if you haven't done it yet, do check out the DVD Live at Union Chapel. He mixes Talking Heads stuff with post-Heads solo stuff, done with wonderfully elegant orchestral arrangements.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:27 PM on August 4, 2008

OK, now I see the poster has been to the site in question. Call it a spot of evangelising on my part, then.
posted by Wolof at 11:35 PM on August 4, 2008

The first song off that new album is available for download now.

Otherwise, I was going to suggest (like someone else did upthread) to try to find some live stuff. Ends up being a nice mix of pre- and post-Talking Heads, which could be a good transition. His performance at Bonnaroo 200....umm....4? I think?....was fantastic.
posted by inigo2 at 6:09 AM on August 5, 2008

If you're in New York this month, how about playing the building?
posted by snofoam at 11:12 AM on August 5, 2008

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