David Byrne
American Utopia


4.2
excellent

Review

by Aaron W. STAFF
March 12th, 2018 | 101 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Is it the truth or merely a description?

David Byrne is and has always been the insightful fellow, tracing back to his halcyon days with Talking Heads. Taking the world's events into his repertoire, subtly or not, has been a trait of his ever since 1978's "Don't Worry About the Government," which paid attention to Byrne's upbringing in Maryland and to the workers which inhabited his home. But with American Utopia, Byrne puts aside the pre-conceived notion of making his thoughts toward the political situation in America ironic or satirical, which is another trait of his songwriting. Not quite as neurotic as it is serious, Byrne's latest aims towards positive thinking and working together to oust the powers that undoubtedly make the nation (and the world, by extension) a weird place to live in. Entitled "Reasons to be Cheerful," the multimedia project American Utopia is a byproduct of, the project as well as the album, tries it best to give us reasons to be optimistic in spite of what is going on around us from day-to-day. Byrne often asks himself: "Why has this happened"" "Why did we take this path"" but instead opts to ask himself on American Utopia: "Why not"" In short, why not sing about what's wrong with the world" Why not give people to be happy despite the blatant misdeeds of those in power" But to ask "Why not"" is to delve deeper into what makes Byrne's album work as well as it does, even despite some rather naive slips on the overly bright "Every Day is a Miracle" and the unremarkable misstep "Bullet."

American Utopia, despite the chance at becoming a politically-charged vent towards particular injustices, instead aspires to give hope rather than add onto the dumpster fire of negativity; or so to say, Byrne sits us down and gives us reasons to be cheerful. "I Dance Like This" goes through a checklist of worldly worries: the money, the lifestyle, the expectations, before devolving into a nervous chorus that both urges us to fight the problems we are facing and to find comfort in whatever encourages you to power through the stressful moments. "Dog's Life" could possibly take on the viewpoint of what an animal would think of what's happening in the world, when in one line, Byrne immediately shoots down such an idea when a dog "cannot imagine what it’s like to drive a car;" whereas "The Pope doesn't mean shit to a dog" from "Every Day is a Miracle" ultimately proves this is a problem humankind must face alone, juxtaposing Byrne's lyric on "Animals" from several decades earlier. Byrne isn't shying away from the bigger picture on American Utopia by the pretense of making a positive record, but is trying his damn best to encourage listeners to contribute to making the world a better place and fixing the problem they may have perpetuated.

On 2001's "Broken Things," Byrne repeatedly asks for someone to fix him, to help him; this idea is subverted seventeen years later: it's not just about Byrne anymore, it's about all of us and the world we live in. If we cannot fix the world, we are all in trouble - which is very much a general idea of what American Utopia is warning us about. But within the quirkier aspects of Byrne's songwriting is a maturity that has never been so prominent before on any of his records before now; Byrne very obviously has enough life experience to put thought into his words and not set out to create a reactionary work based on the disappointment he and many other feel towards recent events that very much affect him and the people around him.

On "Doing the Right Thing," Byrne urges not only himself, but everyone else, to simply do what they feel is "the right thing." In a simplistic message like that, Byrne packs enough emotional punch in a beautifully-composed piece that asks so little from its audience, but propels it into a realm of urgency that contradicts Byrne's "Reasons to be Cheerful." That's how an album like American Utopia sets itself apart from many of its politically-inspired counterparts, but with an added bonus of containing a treasure trove of gorgeous contributions from artists such as Daniel Lopatin, Sampha, and longtime collaborator Brian Eno, who had a hand in the beginnings of Utopia with his contribution of drum patterns for Byrne's use. American Utopia doesn't reassure those worried about the state of the world around them; it doesn't lecture them on what they should or should not do, nor does it force any political opinion onto you; hell, Byrne doesn't act condescending and believe he's in the right, instead hoping he's doing what he thinks is right. All it wants to ask you is this one simple question: "Why not"" All you need to do is figure out the answer.




Recent reviews by this author
Preoccupations New MaterialAlva Noto Unieqav
Suuns FeltKeiji Haino and Sumac American Dollar Bill
Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto GlassRyuichi Sakamoto Async - Remodels
user ratings (61)
Chart.
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 11th 2018


17129 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

editing rn, i am in love



"This is That" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my2lboGXQ7I

"Doing the Right Thing" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7RQDfOYdZw

"Here" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5TdD3eZjnM

Digging: Divine Styler - Spiral Walls Containing Autumns Of Light

Thrust!
March 11th 2018


3054 Comments


Nice review, Frippz. Good read.

Digging: Death - The Sound of Perseverance

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 11th 2018


17129 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

Much love



also thanks to Twig for showing this to me, it's worth a look

http://www.brooklynvegan.com/david-byrne-debuted-untethered-american-utopia-tour-in-nj-video-pics-setlist/

laughingman22
March 11th 2018


2785 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good stuff

someguest
March 11th 2018


29499 Comments


This was a pretty good listen. Quite short for the length of time between albums and some of the mixing was a bit off.

Digging: Underworld - dubnobasswithmyheadman

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 11th 2018


17129 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

I find Byrne's records to be finely cut, with a lot of them being under 45 minutes.

someguest
March 11th 2018


29499 Comments


I don't think it would have hurt this album if it was 20 minutes longer. I do have to say that his voice is holding up extremely well.

SandwichBubble
March 11th 2018


6228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Still a bit surprised at how good this is. Thought for sure this was gonna be a dud

Digging: Don Robertson - Dawn

someguest
March 11th 2018


29499 Comments


A few people really seemed to hate "This Is That" when it was released as a single.

SandwichBubble
March 11th 2018


6228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

That one's actually one of my least favorite on this. Rest of the album (for the most part) is pretty great and more than makes up for it

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 11th 2018


17129 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

This Is That is one of the best on this, Everyone's Coming to My House was a grower although it's one of the weaker songs on the album.

SandwichBubble
March 11th 2018


6228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Fripp, you and I are completely on opposite ends on this. Everyone's Coming to My House is one of my favorites!

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 11th 2018


17129 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

It grew on me, I didn't care for it when it dropped. Byrne's vocal on it is a bit grating imo.

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 11th 2018


17129 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

Also, I really hope more people check out Look Into the Eyeball and Grown Backwards, those are his best records although this isn't too far behind.

SandwichBubble
March 11th 2018


6228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Grown Backwards for sure. Also The Catherine Wheel

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 11th 2018


17129 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

The Catherine Wheel is a great record, even moreso the original score.

Veldin
March 12th 2018


3179 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review! I've only heard "I Dance Like This" but i really like that song, so I'll definitely check this album out. Other than the Talking Heads discog, the only other Byrne album I've heard is his collab with St. Vincent

deathschool
March 12th 2018


22398 Comments


gonna check

Digging: Rolo Tomassi - Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It

Arcade
Staff Reviewer
March 12th 2018


27 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Byrne’s vocals are so very reedy, but i guess that’s to be expected at his age. regardless this is a very great and accessible album and “Everybody’s Coming to My House” is essential

Digging: Young Thug - Hear No Evil

butcherboy
Contributing Reviewer
March 12th 2018


7571 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good album.. great review..

Digging: Abwarts - Amok Koma



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy