Sunday, September 30, 2012

Byrne-ing Down the House

What did you listen to this summer? Without thinking about it, each summer Susan and I usually home in on a couple of particular albums that enjoy heavy rotation to soundtrack our sunny days, but this year, as summer came and went so quickly, that didn't happen for reasons only the ether can reveal. I have been enjoying certain worlds of sound, however: late 60s garage rock (The Seeds, The Sonics etc.), psychedelic/"sunshine" soul (5th Dimension, The Temptations et al), anything from 50s (lots of crooners and cheesy listening) and, oddly, French pop of the late 60s. (As I've just celebrated one year as a Canadian citizen, I guess I've been subconciously embracing my inner Quebecois.)

In addition to these selections, one musician has loomed large: David Byrne. The older I get the more fascinated I become with this man and his music. While I frequently rediscover artists and bands in a big way, it has been some time since I (re)immersed myself in the work of a particular individual like I have this summer with Byrne. I have listened to all the Talking Heads albums on scores of occasions, yet this year seem to be discovering hitherto unnoticed nuances and sonic treats that lurk therein. "Remain in Light," my current obsession and probable overall favourite, is so dense, complex and utterly dazzling in terms of composition that I am finding it an almost overwhelming listen these days. It is so rhythmically intoxicating and melodically euphoric that it moves me to tears as I dance. Seriously. It's pretty much perfect music to these ears. Then, in terms of simplicity, the devastating little guitar solo on "Mind," from the incredible "Fear of Music," just destroys me. What a band this was.

I could go on and on about Talking Heads songs, or even little moments within them, for pages and pages, but you'll understand this if you're a fan. If you're not, or simply haven't heard much, please get out there and do so. There are only eight Talking Heads studio albums, and five of them of bona fide masterpieces. Then, of course, there is the small matter of "Stop Making Sense," arguably one of the greatest documents of live performance, by any band, ever committed to wax and celluloid. Dive right in.

As well as being one of the most inventive musicians and songwriters ever to walk the earth, Byrne is also a great writer. I'm currently reading his superb book, "Bicycle Diaries," a travelogue examining various world cities through the eyes of an avid cyclist, which he is. From his extensive travel experiences Byrne looks at such as Berlin and Istanbul from many persepectives, making it a fascinating and compelling read. The depth and colour of his writing just adds to my growing admiration for the man, so I'd best reel that in right now lest I pass out from over-fawning.

I only ever saw Talking Heads play live once, at Birmingham Odeon, in England, on the 1979 "Fear of Music" tour. It was extraordinary. In 2012, I may have the opportunity to see Byrne play again. He's appearing with St. Vincent at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, at UBC in Vancouver, on October 20, as part of their collaborative "Love This Giant" tour. If the invitation we've received from an associate comes to fruition, you can colour me the most excited I've been for a show in just about forever. Take a look at their performance of the Talking Heads classic "Burning Down the House" in the video above, filmed from the audience in Minneapolis on the first night of the tour, and you may be able to see why!