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Daily Record 2/7/11: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today-David Byrne & Brian Eno (2008)

In 2000s, 2008, gospel, new wave, pop, Rich's House of Vinyl on February 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm

I lost a friend recently, which is why the random selection of Byrne’s 2008 collaboration with Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, seems like a significant coincidence to me. While I enjoy the entire CD, I have always been drawn to a core set of songs from it that seem to echo the intertwining themes of loss, hope and human connection. Themes that have been on my mind the last few days.

Byrne and Eno collaborated largely through e-mail on Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, with Byrne writing lyrics and singing them (as well as contributing some degree of musical ideas) to instrumentals that Eno had created. The album was described as a “folk-electronic-gospel” album by Byrne and Eno and I even think I read that Eno called it a “gospel album recorded by two atheists.”

While bits and pieces of certain songs on Everything That Happens Will Happen Today hearken back to a previous Byrne/Eno collaboration, the experimental My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, it is actually the more intimate and contemplative songs, the ones that really do echo the feel of gospel music, that have always drawn me into the Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

Byrne’s lyrics (particularly on “Everything That Happens,” “Life Is Long,” “The River,” “One Fine Day” and “The Lighthouse”)  touch on how we cope with sadness and loss.  I’ve always heard these songs as descriptions of how the connections we have with each other can provide much-needed hope in the face of loss. It’s not exactly a promise of a specific brand of salvation (Byrne and Eno wouldn’t go there), but these songs seem to offer one very practical prescription that we could all use in times of despair: to rely on and cultivate the connections that we have with each other in order to restore some measure of hope to our lives, as we’re living them today. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow will take care of themselves.

[There is one 800-pound exotic animal presenting some degree of irony in this room, which is that Byrne seems to be in a semi-permanent state of disconnect with former Talking Heads band mates Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison. I’m sure I’m not the only Talking Heads fan to be disconcerted by this state of affairs, but that’s a story for another Daily Record.]

One other song on Everything That Happens Will Happen Today seems to dwell on our relationships with each other as vessels for inspiration and comfort. In “Strange Overtones,” Byrne addresses a singing apartment dweller next door, commenting that “your song still needs a chorus/I know you’ll figure it out.” The lyrics could also have been easily drawn from Byrne’s e-mails to Eno concerning the music they were working on together, as Byrne listens to the music Eno has sent and then turns his working notes on that music into the lyrics for this song. It’s one of those rare songs, like David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” that contemplates the creative process, though the Bowie song (coincidentally produced by Eno) is about the solitary creative process, while “Strange Overtones” is about collaboration.

In any event, “Strange Overtones” reminds me of the interactions any two people can have, whether face to face, or facilitated by technology. These events, whether they are artistic collaborations or simple conversations, can be shallow (and maybe sometimes that’s OK) or they can be deep, but either way, these connections can be the catalyst for further contemplation or activity and have the potential to see us through difficult times.

Like the “everything” in this album’s title, these chances for human connection present themselves to us today, and everyday. We simply have to recognize and act on them.

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