Look Into the Eyeball

David Byrne

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Look Into the Eyeball Review

by Michael Hastings

It goes without saying that any David Byrne solo release will be all over the sonic map, and true to form, Look Into the Eyeball provides a pancultural stew of musical styles, exotic rhythms, and international guest stars. But what separates Eyeball from Byrne's previous offering, the only-fitfully successful Feelings, is a renewed emphasis on lush, natural sounds and consistent production. Nearly every track boasts strings and/or horns, and the textures go a long way in unifying Byrne's insistent genre-hopping. Tracks such as "Smile," "The Revolution," "The Accident," and "Everyone's in Love With You" best demonstrate his new approach: Spare melodies are layered atop subtle, percolating rhythms and then filled in with evocative string arrangements. Better yet, Byrne's two collaborations with legendary Philly soul producer Thom Bell -- the buoyant "Like Humans Do" and "Neighborhood" -- blend in effortlessly with the other material. Of course, old habits die hard: "U.B. Jesus" and "The Great Intoxication" are at once too slick and too simple, with muddled messages both musically and lyrically. (It doesn't help that the latter track features a cringe-inducing, self-referential "Who disco? Who techno? Who hip-hop? Who bebop?..." shout-out.) The remainder of the album vacillates between pleasant Talking Heads-ish pop ("Walk on Water") and accomplished if out-of-place forays into the Latin avant-garde ("Desconocido Soy"). It's hard to fault Byrne -- who produces an album every three or four years -- for packing as much as he can into one release. So it's best to view Look Into the Eyeball for what it is: an entertaining assimilation of the sundry artists and sounds he's gotten into since his last trip into the studio.

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