Like most people, I had been aware of David Byrne via his work with the Talking Heads, however I’d also heard that his solo albums were generally a bit more arty and just a little bit pretentious, but a friend of mine advised that this was a good album to take a risk with and so when I encountered it during one of my frequent trips to Record Collector, I decided to take the chance on it.
What immediately struck me about David Byrne’s eponymous album was how approachable it was. Sure it didn’t have the same grasp of pop that the Talking Heads generally did, but this was an album of rare quality with some great songs, and easily the best songs Byrne had penned since he’d left his former bandmates some years previously. A pleasingly diverse grown up pop album, David Byrne is by turns gentle (“Self Made Man”), funky (“Back In The Box”, “Lilys Of The Valley”), funny (“Sad Song”) and knowing (all of it).
Given that this release sounds more like The Talking Heads than any of David Byrne’s other solo albums it was perhaps intended as an entry point into Byrne’s solo career, as it acts as a nice transition between his former band and his more arty output. Quite why this self titled album didn’t re-establish David Byrne as a major commercial force is something that probably gave him sleepless nights until his recent return to commercial success, as it is surely among his most accessible solo work. This was an album that saw Byrne competing with the likes of David Bowie and Peter Gabriel for the title of smartest solo male adult pop artist, and stands up to comparison to the output of those two previously named icons.
Following the relative commercial failure of this album and its equally brilliant follow up, Feelings, David Byrne spent a few more years wandering further and further away from music that might possibly get played on the radio, unless he was collaborating with another act. Byrne has never been anything less than creative, but he chose his projects carefully, while bands like Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (both of whom owe on obvious debt to Byrne and Talking Heads) are starting to make their mark. In recent years Byrne has finally been receiving he airplay and press attention that an artist of his stature deserves, so maybe the time to reassess this album is now.