Picks and Pans Review: Uh-Oh
"People say that I am crazy, people say that I am strange/ I don't care about what people say, they can't see inside my brain." That's Talking Heads' David Byrne singing on this, his second solo album. He's right—he is crazy and strange. But this record isn't too crazy or strange at all, which could be part of the problem.
During the last few years, Byrne has become obsessed with Afro-Latin music. It culminated in the 1989 Brazil Classics albums he compiled and in his solo debut, Rei Momo (1989). Uh-Oh finds him taking a cautious sideways step to accommodate his art-pop roots with his new influences.
Such a ploy works well on a track like "Monkey Man," which combines a heady cocktail of percussion fidgeting around a thumping brass section, spiky guitar and a wailing female chorus. And "A Walk in the Dark" is a fine enough piece of creepy, noir-ish drama. But elsewhere the ideas and execution are just too lightweight ("Girls on My Mind") or too complicated ("A Million Miles Away"). Often the fine playing overshadows (or completely overruns) a thin idea for a song, as it does in "Hanging Upside Down," a snappy number with great swinging brass about looking at girls in the shopping mall.
Maybe we expect too much of David Byrne these days. After all, each Talking Heads album used to serve as a signpost that other bands would heed for future direction. Maybe now that he has painted his masterpieces, author-director-musician Byrne should be allowed to graze and doodle wherever he likes. The 12 songs on this album are pretty landscapes, but don't expect the shock of the new. (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros.)