Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
REVIEW BY: Melanie Love
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/07/2009
2008’s Everything That Happens Will Happen Today finds Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and producer Brian Eno reuniting for the first time since My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts in 1981. This disc marks a different sort of collaboration than its predecessor, however; Eno laid down the instrumentation to a number of tracks, then recruited Bryne to provide lyrics and vocals. The tapes themselves were passed back and forth between the two musicians and additional session players until the disc was completed -- yet despite how methodical the process may seem, the resulting collaboration sounds anything but processed or disjointed. Instead, this batch of eleven songs is one of the most buoyant, melodic, and refreshingly hopeful albums of the year (and had I not just gotten around to buying it now in January, would have most definitely made it onto my Top 10 list this year).
Launching the disc out is one of the most solid cuts here, “Home.” Byrne’s expansive vocals and crisp, evocative lyrics swirl past Eno’s layers of acoustic guitar and chugging beats, hitting the mark spot-on in creating a track that skims the line between longing and tempered reflection. The songs here are described in the liner notes as “folk electronic gospel,” and each are infused with such a sense of compassion and possibility that even Byrne wondered at how the material had managed to sound so uplifting during the trying and not particularly hopeful Bush era.
Songs like “Everything That Happens” and “Life Is Long” reflect this mood most immediately, and are two of the album’s most instantly striking moments. “Everything That Happens” find Byrne’s vocals uncoiling over a languorous soundscape, hazy as if in slow motion, until the last verse kicks in: “Everything that happens will happen today / And nothing has changed but nothing’s the same,” Byrne sings, and the combination of harmonized vocals and ringing guitars envelops you in its warmth. Next up, “Life Is Long” is kicky and jangly, coupling Eno’s rich arrangements with one of the album’s most fluid, memorable choruses, concluding with the line “Chain me down but I am still free.” Meanwhile, “One Fine Day” is billowing with a similar energy, textured with acoustic guitars and anthemic harmonies.
Lead single “Strange Overtones” was the way I first fell for this album, and it’s really not too hard to see why this track makes an excellent introduction. It’s seamlessly catchy, achieving a sort of Bowie-like groove with its shuffling beat, swerving bassline, and an epic chorus exploring directly the process of penning a song (“Strange overtones / Though they’re slightly out of fashion / I’ll harmonize / I’ll see the music in your face / That your words cannot explain”).
There are a few stumbles here, although it comes mostly when Byrne and Eno’s stunning atmosphere gets interrupted by some less than successful experimenting. “I Feel My Stuff” is an odd break too early in the album into meandering spoken-word passages, shambling instrumentation, and strained lyrics that fumble the flow achieved by the preceding two tracks. Later, “Wanted For Life” feels similarly out of place with its thickly buzzing synths and almost plodding beats, at least surrounded by the punchy “Strange Overtones” and the strange but successful “Poor Boy,” which pairs bongos and a spry guitar line with Byrne’s confident vocals to create a rollicking penultimate track that diverges musically from the surrounding material but retains the same spirit.
Everything That Happens Will Happen Today is a stellar disc that manages to hold up hope in a pretty cynical age. The music here is seamless and enveloping, catchy without ever being slick -- it’s a joy to listen to, and a fitting comeback of sorts for this loose pair who achieve moments of brilliance with this album.