We’re never quite sure if, at any given moment, David Byrne is deep into some thought-provoking experimental theater piece, a mind-altering visual installation, or, once in awhile, actually releasing a record. But now you know: his newest album, the not ironically titled American Utopia, will be released this March (on Todomundo/Nonesuch). It’s his first genuine solo album since 2004’s Grown Backwards, and, as usual, there’s no telling what it might sound like.
Here’s a hint, though…first single “Everybody’s Coming to My House” – which was co-penned by his old pal Brian Eno. The cool, jittery post-punk-funk track actually sounds like it could have been plucked from the sessions of the Talking Heads classic Remain in Light, for which, of course, Eno served as producer.
Byrne is in finest equivocal lyrical form, enigmatically intoning, “I wish I was a camera / I wish I was a postcard / I’d welcome you to my house / You didn’t have to go far.”
The album itself is based on news stories Byrne has collected over the last year that offer some sense of optimism, amidst the overriding divisiveness. It’s part of his ongoing creative series Reasons to be Cheerful.
“Is this meant ironically?,” he asks. “Do I mean this seriously? In what way? Am I referring to the past or the future? Is it personal or political? These songs don’t describe an imaginary or possibly impossible place but rather attempt to depict the world we live in now. Many of us, I suspect, are not satisfied with that world – the world we have made for ourselves. We look around and we ask ourselves, well, does it have to be like this? Is there another way? These songs are about that looking and that asking.”
All things considered, it seems like a reasonable way forward.