Artvoice AUGUST 20, 2008 - by Donny Kutzbach


There's no denying that email and the internet have completely changed the way we do things. The almost boundless ability to exchange information has made for a more productive world. It has opened up long-distance communication, making it easier than ever. It has sped up the ability to get things done. Just ask David Byrne and Brian Eno what it did for them.

Thanks to the internet, this iconic pair of rock innovators realised their first collaboration since 1981's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. Via back-and-forth correspondence and swapping of files and ideas online, they have crafted Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

Since Bush Of Ghosts - an elegant landmark of sutured electronic, ambient, and world music that proved years ahead of its time - a lot has happened to this duo. Byrne broke up his band Talking Heads to broaden his artistic horizon, not only as a solo artist but scoring film and television to great success, as well as working in a host of non-musical artistic disciplines. Eno also tried his hand at different kinds of art while continuing to break ground with his own records and helping to make stadium superstars out of rock acts like U2 and Coldplay, who utilised his infallible ear and "oblique strategies" as a producer to fine effect.

To have Byrne and Eno together again after so long is something of a shocker - but a brilliant, multi-coloured light and twisting shapes sort of shock. The obvious division of workload here has Eno primarily building the detailed musical backgrounds while Byrne - with his sharp wit and uniquely conceptual sense of story-telling - pens the lyrics. From there the two go back and forth with ideas through the ether, and enlist multi-instrumentalist Leo Abrahams and drummer Seb Rochford to add parts. All the while, Byrne and Eno never properly decamp to a studio together to make the record. This is the modern age indeed.

The long-distance results of Everything That Happens Will Happen Today are not merely cohesive but ultimately result in a textured and nuanced record of abstract, gospel-toned songs. With its more traditionally structured song structure, this album might be miles apart from Bush Of Ghosts but is every bit as masterful, challenging, and invigorating. It's a record that is grandiose and sometimes artificial but never cold and always deeply human at the core. The opening track, Home, has Byrne nicking melodic and lyrical elements from Simon and Garfunkel's Homeward Bound while Eno pastiches a stunning backdrop of choraled guitar lines and layered harmonies. It serves as a sonic litmus test that quickly proves Eno and Byrne have it down. Each one not only relishes his respective role but is made better as the other's foil. Eno's joyful electronic meets New Orleans funk arrangement for Life Is Long is buoyed by Byrne's soulful vocal and lyrics. On Strange Overtones Byrne brings a double entendre on music and life when he sings, "Your song still needs a chorus / I know you'll figure it out" - and there is little question that Eno's trickling, infectious disco blast here was going to be anything but perfect. The linchpin of it all is the de facto title track Everything That Happens, where Eno's haunting lullaby atmospherics tend the landscape as Byrne recounts dream-like scenarios and "other conscious" thoughts that seemingly delve into the life/death/rebirth cycle.

In that song he offers the line, "Nothing has changed / But nothing's the same." The same might be said of Byrne and Eno, together again after all of these years.