I really can’t stand David Byrne’s voice. The fact is really bugging me, too, because I really don’t know the reason. I think, though, that it might have to do with an effort — and I really don’t want to hurt Byrne’s feelings, but I really think he’s trying too hard (which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s followed anything he’s done since Speaking in Tongues).
First of all, it’s like, I really wish he’d shut up about dancing. It’s like dude, it’s ok. You’re a white male. You’re not expected to like dancing. I mean Talking Heads even isn’t dance music the way like Donna Summer is, or something. He’s free to talk about like a trip to Africa he made (if he’s ever even been to Africa, maybe he could learn a thing or two from his cohorts Toto), he can talk about football, or beer (like the Michigan Rattlers are charmingly prone to doing)… but no… it’s always DANCING. It reminds me of some like mandatory fun night your parents would make you go on or something.
Well, I’m not really saying enough here… because, and this should bespeak how just awful it is hearing Byrne sing in this torpid style like a Franz Kafka of… whatever the fu** this style is now, but I think “I Dance Like This” is actually a new genre of music. It’s postmodern rock, essentially — it’s disjointed but the disjuncture is the whole point whereby a verse of idyllic folk rock (with again a sort of kitschy, overly dramatic vocal in this case) is flanked by a bona fide opposite. The opposite then is full-fledged electronica, with, commendably, a modified vocal and all.
Really, rock and roll has always been about juxtaposition of opposites. The dominant chord and the subdominant chord, for instance, encompass a sort of yin and yang, one an odd number of steps up from the tonic and one an even, one the mark of Apollonian, hopeful entities in society and the other of Dionysian, of the uncontrollable, liquid, female (sorry to vilify women so close to International Women’s Day, but it’s nothing Camille Paglia hasn’t already done). And so then opposites are why “I Dance Like This” um, sort of works, or like I said forges a new genre of music which… shall we call… “Oppositionstep”? Y-yah.
K. As for the rest of this album, it’s abysmally horrendous crap, goopy dross which is apparently his attempt at liberal-minded folk rock. All of this is hardly surprising since Byrne has never done anything good in his entire career without Tina Weymouth, Jerry Harrison and Chris Frantz in tow (as I’ve said before on this blog, Love This Giant literally made me boycott St. Vincent’s self-titled LP). It’s retro, but it’s not even as good-retro as Kyle Craft, because the era it harks to is inbred — it’s late Talking Heads, those horrendous albums like Little Creatures where everything was mid-‘80s butterflies and kisses right during the Reagan admin. Now we have Trump, who, I’m hoping people still hate, seeing as he’s an utter bag of sh**, and Byrne doesn’t even sound remotely politically minded or angry on American Utopia (and don’t let the album title fool you: there’s nothing zeitgeist-minded about this aimless mix of desultory folk etudes). It’s a case of egregious interpersonal moribundity, the not being able to get out and “live a little.” But then, it’s like Celine said, “Nearly all of a poor man’s pleasures are punishable by jail.” Oh yeah, Byrne’s not poor. Not yet, at least.