This is not a sequel to the ground-breaking 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. But that’s OK—the last thing anybody needs or wants is these two incredibly bright and originally creative lights pretending to be something they’re not, even if it’s something they once were.
David Byrne is the closest rock has come to Franz Kafka. He has always had an eye for what is present and what is missing and what both mean. And he’s been able to set those observations, rhyming and in meter, to power pop, orchestral music, and bossa nova. These songs started with unsatisfactory fragments that Brian Eno has been archiving for decades. Eno’s sounds are predictably unpredictable, mostly keys and electronics, mostly melodic and mostly heavily rhythmic. Some of the songs have real drums and percussion. But throughout, the rhythm comes from the steady contractions of the many instrumental voices (bass, electric drums, inhuman piano, guitar, keys, and brass, for example, on the song “I Feel My Stuff”) with which Eno is expressing himself at any given moment. And, as with the most memorable music of his own past, Byrne’s word choice, diction, and cadence generate a fairly dance-able beat with no apparent emphasis or effort.
The record—or whatever you call a download package—is interesting and varied and in places surprisingly quiet. Byrne’s lyrics are literary and swing from overheard apartment-next-door conversations to the incomplete memories of the aged to articulate motivational rants. In “My Big Nurse,” he may actually be sharing his recipe: “I’m counting all the possibilities./When the past becomes the now;/When the lost becomes the found;/When we fall in love with war;/When the angel fucks the whore.”