09 September 2012
David Byrne's latest release, a collaboration with St. Vincent, is a big, sassy, brass-filled celebration of angular rhythms and obtuse observations. If it sounds great (and it does) that's because it also sees him returning to the vibe he had first explored in his earliest solo recordings, such as Songs from The Catherine Wheel and Music For the Knee Plays, and in his production work on the B-52's Mesopotamia.
The first of these, the score for a production for Twyla Tharp's dance company, was promoted with a 3 song ep that gathered together the most commercial tracks; while the majority of the album was instrumental, reflecting Byrne's interest in African poly rhythms and FM synthesis, these three were in the mold that the Talking Heads had begun to explore on the mighty Remain in Light album, but with a distinctively experimental edge.
"Big Blue Plymouth (Eyes Wide Open)" would become a favourite track in our college dorm rooms; its huge, rousing chorus offering one of Byrne's most out sized and playful takes on America's obsession with the internal combustion engine. My friend Andrew loved this ep so much, he hung up the whimsical cover so that it dangled above our heads like some dadaist mobile while the beats pounded from the speakers.
The Catherine Wheel was re-released in an expanded form in 1999. It gathered together the tracks that had been left off of the album version owing to space limitations, but somehow managed to neglect the extended dance version of "Big Business," with its prescient take on the unstoppable avarice of of global capital. Here then is the 3 Big Songs ep, complete and intact. Are your eyes wide open?
--Crash the Driver