The would-be Roland Barthes of the five boroughs continues his puckish, lifelong interrogation of contemporary culture. As ever, his focus is the banal stuff of everyday yuppiedom – money, cars, tourism, shopping – and there is a Once in a Lifetime-style anxiety running through it all. But like some evangelistic Silicon Valley entrepreneur, he also finds potential and even a kind of poetry in it. The album title, he has said, is not ironic: Byrne seems to hope, like the ultimate “centrist dad”, that we can shift our capitalist culture into a more progressive mode.
More ideas, then, than most artists attempt, but the delivery is uneven. Every Day Is a Miracle has a lovely, swelling chorus melody, but its lyrics are toxically whimsical, full of heavenly chickens and newspaper-ignoring elephants. Byrne’s menagerie expands on Dog’s Mind, a secular hymn which compares the pampered middle classes to their canine pets: “Now a dog cannot imagine / What it is to drive a car / And we, in turn, are limited / By what it is we are.” The album is full of pronouncements like this, that aim at being zen kōans for a smartphone age, but fall intellectually short.
The former Talking Heads frontman calls his decision to exclude female collaborators on his new LP American Utopia ‘ridiculous’
David Byrne has apologised for not collaborating with women on his forthcoming album American Utopia, after writing a blogpost that highlighted contributions from 25 male collaborators.
In a response to a backlash over the blogpost, Byrne wrote in a statement that the gender disparity issue “matters a lot to me … This lack of representation is something that is widespread and problematic in our industry. I regret not hiring and collaborating with women for this album – it’s ridiculous, it’s not who I am and it certainly doesn’t match how I’ve worked in the past.
At 65, the phenomenally creative David Byrne is still rock’s renaissance man. As he launches his first solo album in 14 years, he reveals why he’s started collecting reasons to be cheerful
The first time David Byrne came to the Roundhouse in Camden was in 1977, when his band, Talking Heads, supported the Ramones. Both bands were deluged with phlegm, because that’s what punks thought they were meant to do then. Forty-one years later, the man, the venue and the fans have all changed. Tonight, Byrne is treating a small, respectful audience in the Roundhouse’s Sackler Space to a PowerPoint lecture called “Reasons to be Cheerful”. Nobody spits.
Byrne came up with the idea two years ago. Obama was on his way out, Trump was on his way up, and Byrne wanted to alleviate the gloom by collating stories of positive change from around the world – not grand schemes but small, pragmatic innovations that work. Looking like a dapper academic with his sharp grey suit and shock of white hair, the 65-year-old clicks through his slides: carbon-neutral urban planning in Sweden, high-speed bus lanes in South America, an anti-corruption game show in Africa. To quote one of his famous lyrics, this ain’t no disco, but nor is it out of character. For most of his life, Byrne has been asking if things can be done differently.