Artist: "David Byrne"
Album: "The Catherine Wheel"
Genre: Alternative Rock
Reviewer: Max Burbank
Review: A lot of people think of this as the lost Talking Heads album. Released in 1981, between 80’s ‘Remain in Light’ and 83’s ‘Speaking in tongues’, a lot of people bought the album to fill a hungry void begging for more Heads music. As an album “The Catherine Wheel” is oddly more and less. A few of the songs would appear in Jonathan Demes brilliant concert film “Stop Making Sense” and thus become part of the Heads cannon. The original album release was a drastically shortened version of the entire score, lending it an album like feel but a full-length version was soon available, and then scope and movement of the piece are a lot more clear
Commissioned by Twyla Tharpe for a Broadway Dance performance, this is a score with vocals, not a selection of songs. Smack in the middle of their collaboration with producer Brian Eno, his influence is heavily felt in the ambient walls of sound that slide seamlessly through the entire work. Peppered with steel drums as well as synthesizers, there’s a Brazilian undercurrent at play. All the members of The Talking Heads are here, but it’s David Byrne who got the title credit, not the band, and with reason. The arrangements are his. Eno filters it some, but the driving force is always Byrne, and this is the first of many projects that would eventually take him away from the band.
The seventeen dances, accompanied by Byrnes twenty-three tracks chart the collapse of the Nuclear family against imagery of nuclear war. Having never been lucky enough to see the ballet and can’t hazard much of guess as to the pieces meaning per se, but for me there is a steady drift from tension and argument to joyous catharthis.
A lot of where David Byrne was going as a solo artist can be heard here for the first time, from driving Latino beats to chunks that sound like they were sliced whole from the Byrne/Eno collaboration “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”. Not surprisingly for a ballet, it’s the rhythm more than the sweep that carries you through, melding Caribbean steel with ambient industrial noise, catching you up and first matching and then speeding your pulse, and then at last spinning you free.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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