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'Feelings' shows Byrne at his creative peak


Feelings
By David Byrne

Luaka Bop / Warner Bros.: 1997


This review first appeared in the September 6, 1997 edition of the American Reporter.

David Byrne's always been a bit of an odd bird. His stilted mannerisms and jerky dancing as front man for the Talking Heads were almost as famous as the band's string of hits, and his avant-garde projects with Brian Eno were beyond what even many modern jazzsters were into.

Commercially, Byrne has been fairly invisible since the breakup of the Talking Heads (who have since re-formed without him). So it's fun to see that his latest solo project, "Feelings," has brought a refreshing return to quirkiness on America's radios.

"Miss America," with its sharp lyrics laid over a bouncing melody and delivered with a Pat Boone sweetness-and-light sunniness, has gotten the most airplay. The breeziness of the arrangement and singing are in nice contrast to the bite of the lyrical content:

And I kissed America/When she was fleecing me
She knows I understand/That she needs to be free
And I miss America/And sometimes she does too
And sometimes I think of her/When she is fucking you

Or:

Oh supergirl
You'll be my supermodel
Although your pants are around your ankles
And when you're down
I'll be your Dirty Harry
It will be just like in the movies

But most any of the 13 other songs are as likely to catch your ear with their combination of instantly accessible melody, twisted lyrical content and smooth production.

And just as with the Talking Heads, it's all eminently danceable, with a Eurobeat that guarantees placement in jukeboxes for years to come.

The CD packaging is just as odd and fun as the music, featuring a Barbie-like David Byrne doll on the cover, with accessories splashed throughout the booklet. Sort of a modernist Pee-Wee Herman.

"Feelings" is as good an album as Byrne has ever done; every bit as complete as his best Talking Heads stuff. He's never written a better, stronger collection of songs, and if the backing musicians here don't have the empathy and groove the Heads had, the superior material more than makes up for it.