Picks and Pans Review: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

updated 04/20/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/20/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

David Byrne & Brian Eno

"America is waiting for a message of some sort or another." That line, uttered by an unidentified radio host in San Francisco last April, was recorded on the air by Byrne, the head Talking Head, and Eno, the British synthesizer whiz and Heads' producer. Whatever the sentence's original context, it reappears in the lyric on this LP's opening cut. Thus transformed, it casts a thematic shadow across the entire album. Byrne and Eno recorded My Life before working on Remain in Light, the Heads' LP heralded last year for its use of African and funk polyrhythms. My Life, though, is the big breakthrough—a rich State-of-the-Musical-Union Address. Its power lies in juxtaposing fascinating rhythmic landscapes with the recorded voices of people obsessed—yahoo radio hosts, evangelists, an exorcist, chanting Muslims. The rhythms become metaphors for aspects of America while the voices become symbols of its torment, confusion and faith. A wailing Arabic voice in Regiment, for instance, dominates a shifting, fluid, pleasureful rhythm that raises images of life at home during the 444 days of the U.S. hostages' Iranian captivity. Perhaps the scariest song is Come with Us. Underneath the phrases of a radio evangelist whispering about death, a thumping heartbeat struggles against electronic whirrings, beepings and off-tempo clappings. Though they insist their message was purely musical, Byrne and Eno have stunningly evoked the fear inspired by modern technology. Yet this gripping album is not a downer. It comes with a safety valve: It is marvelously, incongruously danceable. For Americans, dancing to My Life will be an exorcistic rite.

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