A Change of Key Will Let You Out: "Strange Overtones"

David Byrne is really doing it for me right now.

This morning as I did my radio show, I found his album Here Lies Love and experienced a gradual dawning of increasingly exciting revelations:

1. It's a disco/club album by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim.

2. Not only is it a disco/club album by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, it features guest vocalists ranging from Cyndi Lauper to Tori Amos to Florence (of the Machine).

3. Not only is it a disco/club album etc etc etc. . .it's a DISCO OPERA!

4. Not only is it a DISCO OPERA, it's a disco opera about the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos!

Needless to say, I purchased it on CD immediately. . .and have spent the rest of the day in what I will admit is a little bit of a post-excitement hangover. I only have so much capacity for excitement in one day, a sad truth I will never fully realize in the moment it seems. My grandma had a hilarious story about the family dachshund visiting the family farm, finding somehow an entire cow's worth of cow-fat, and eating her weight of it and more. They found her in the field, and I'm not sure if this is the story or my embellishment of it, but I always picture the dachshund unable to walk because her stomach had distended further than her legs.

Well, I am a dog in my personality, and in this I am no different from a dog. When presented with something that is aesthetically pleasing to me, I will eat it until my legs can't carry me any more.

But I am pleased to have used this capacity on Here Lies Love, because it represents not only what is compelling to me about David Byrne at the moment but also something that is compelling to me in general.

Which is to say, the combination of strangeness and passion, which Mr. Byrne does so well -- which he seems unable to not do.


The song: David Byrne and Brian Eno, "Strange Overtones"; 2008

This song is not from Here Lies Love, which is still too new to me, but from David Byrne's collaboration with Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

But I'm posting it because it's good, and also because it thematically sums up what I am trying to say. David Byrne's music is comforting to me right now because it's unexpected (he always seems to come at music at a right angle from where most others do) but it still sounds appealing. So often strangeness comes with unpleasantness. Or not unpleasantness so much as, deliberate offputting-ness.

While I recognize the artistic value of deliberate offputting-ness much more than I did even a year ago, I also know myself well enough to know it's not my taste and probably never will be. I like to be welcomed in and to welcome music in. I like things to be beautiful and good. (That may seem like an obvious statement, but it's a taste just as much as anything else is a taste -- this much I have learned at least from a year's time at a college radio station, where I went in turning my nose up at music that I found ugly. I try not to do that any more.)

A few months ago I had the thought that I would sincerely like my tombstone to say, "Here Lies AW, Crushed By A Wall of Sound". It sounds flippant but it is true.