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Wednesday, May 16, 2001

HIGH NOTES

'Look Into the Eyeball': David Byrne


David Byrne once told the New York Times that he hated world music, surprising for someone whose own music incorporates elements of samba, African pop and a plethora of other influences. But what he was criticizing is the way the term is used to relegate the vast majority of the music produced in the world "into the realm of something exotic and therefore cute, weird but safe."

Put simply, what the Scottish-born former singer of Talking Heads hates is categorization, although this isn't really an option with his own eclectic music, which, from its art-rock roots in his former band, has made a habit of crossing borders. The main danger of such eclecticism, as with too rich a stew, is that the elements might not blend properly, as was the case with some of his previous releases.

On "Look Into the Eyeball," however, Byrne, who turned 49 just a few days ago, plays the role of an expert and innovative chef, skillfully combining such diverse ingredients as Brazilian backbeats and country guitar on "Broken Things," or shuffling folk-pop and classical strings on "Revolution," giving the latter a Beatlesque feel. But touching all the musical bases does not necessarily make for good music. What distinguishes this album is Byrne's ear for a great melody and his way with a lyric. "Like Humans Do," the first single from the album, has an infectious groove, melodic hooks and lyrics that, in combination with his unique voice, extract poetry from the obvious.



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