What a weirdo, that David Byrne. Those oversized suits, the strange dance moves, and songs about psycho killers and discos. Jeez, who wants to listen that stuff?
Well, I do. Now, anyways.
It took me many years to fall under the spell of Mr. David Byrne. I grew up in the 80s so albums like Remain In Light and Speaking In Tongues were regularly jammed into my eyes and ears thanks to the neighbors having cable and MTV, and thanks to my parents having a stereo in the cars we drove around. I never got Talking Heads as a kid. The look and sound was like a weird dream more than music I’d want to spend much time with. “Burning Down The House” made me feel queasy every time I saw the video. It wasn’t unlike the first time I saw Blue Velvet. I think I associated David Byrne and Talking Heads with David Lynch for years just on how they made me feel as a kid.
It wasn’t until 2007 that I saw the light regarding Talking Heads, and ultimately David Byrne. I was on some internet radio station and listening to an 80s alternative channel. Within the mix of The Smiths, The Fall, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Gang of Four a song off of Remain In Light came on called “Crosseyed and Painless”. As soon as I heard that song I realized I’d been missing the point for years regarding these New York art weirdos. It seems the Talking Heads were all about the groove. And well, I’m all about the groove, too.
I immediately began collecting whatever I could that was Talking Heads. From their debut up to Speaking In Tongues I was all in. It was all about texture and rhythm. It was all about tension and release. I delved a bit into some of Byrne’s solo stuff, but I couldn’t really find my footing. I did find two records he did without Talking Heads that I quite love. One is the David Byrne/Brian Eno joint My Life In The Bush of Ghosts and The Catherine Wheel.
My Life is the more well known one thanks to his pal Mr. Eno joining him on it. It’s filled with all the frenetic rhythms and angsty joltiness that we’ve grown to love about those two working together. The Catherine Wheel, while still filled with some amazing rhythm, bass, and guitar weirdness thanks to Adrian Belew, is a little more subtle. The Catherine Wheel is a collection of songs that Byrne was commisioned to write for a dance piece by Twyla Tharp. Who is Twyla Tharp? I’m not sure, but she’s got good(and quirky) taste if she asked our Dave Byrne to write music for her dance troupe to dance to.
I found this promotional copy at a Record Show in Fort Wayne, Indiana back in 2013. For $10 I thought it was a deal, as it was in NM condition. I was only mildly familiar with the album, as my friend John Thiesen(Johnny from Queens we like to call him) had told me I should check it out. Well, if Johnny from Queens tells me to check something out I check it out. Turns out I really liked it, so only a couple months later finding a pristine copy on vinyl seemed like fate. Or luck. Or lucky fate.
Simply put, I love the album. It’s one of those records I can just put on and get lost in a track like “His Wife Refused” and “My Big Hands(Fall Through The Cracks)”. “What A Day That Was” almost has a post punk feel. The vibe is somewhere between Fear Of Music’s pent up paranoia and the rhythmic and experimental gut punch of Remain In Light. If you didn’t know this wasn’t Talking Heads, you’d think it was Talking Heads. But it’s not. It’s David Byrne stepping out on his own doing his weird thing. Eno stops in for some bass time, as well as the “Prophet Scream” on “The Red House”. Mr. Adrian Belew helps out as well, giving it the Remain In Light vibe. Hell, even the synth wizard Bernie Worrell stops by and plays some mini moog on “His Wife Refused”.
Bottom line, this is a shining spot in the David Byrne canon. If you’re not a Talking Heads fan this probably won’t be your thing. If you haven’t tried any Talking Heads in a long time, you should revisit them. It took me till I was 34 to see and hear the bizarro genius of David Byrne. Either way, it’s good stuff. And it’s Hubner-approved.
Editor’s Note: We have not seen the stage performance of The Catherine Wheel. We’d like to. If you have, tell us what you thought of it. And tell us what you think of Mr. Byrne and the Talking Heads in general. He was on a recent episode of Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast. You should listen to it. Very interesting.