David Byrne

David Byrne

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David Byrne took a spare, direct approach on his third song-based solo album, which lent his work an intimacy but did little to restore his commercial prospects, despite a first single, "Angels," that was a ringer for The Talking Heads song "Once in a Lifetime." In fact, the limited instrumentation and focus on Byrne's voice tended to create difficulties with his typically quirky lyrics -- with the words in close-up, one wanted them to make some kind of sense. But when, for example, on "Strange Ritual," Byrne delivered a series of images -- "a French corporation that doesn't make anything / an ambulance driver--wakes up in a dairy queen" -- he didn't really mean anything by them. When he noted, "saw a young Indonesian girl-- / possessed by the spirit of / mutant ninja turtles," it was just because he liked the sound of the words. In a denser musical structure, such as the mbaqanga-flavored "You & Eye," one might share his enjoyment, but on other tracks with less to offer aurally, the disturbing question "What is he talking about?" became inescapable.

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