David Byrne

Look into the Eyeball

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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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