Recommended Albums #25

Grown Backwards

David Byrne: Grown Backwards (2004)

Just at the point in David Byrne’s career when I’d pretty much lost interest–he’d apparently given up making conventional pop in favor of a world music agenda with his Luaka Bop label–someone who never gave me music before or since handed me a promo copy of Grown Backwards. I’d probably never have heard it otherwise. The promo did precisely its intended work, and dumb luck brought me one of my favorite albums of its decade.

Grown Backwards sounds like nothing so much as Byrne’s “record for grown ups”–intelligent and wide-ranging, but still slightly odd in Byrne’s inimitable way. The tunes bounce from style to style: eclectic, quirky pop, horn-laden funk, a sprinkling of that world music vibe (though not a heavy enough dose to be off-putting) and Byrne even covers two opera duets: the gorgeous Au Fond du Temple Saint, written by Bizet and sung with Rufus Wainwright; and Un di Felice, Etera from Verdi’s La Traviata. This ain’t no “Psycho Killer”. And this ain’t no foolin’ around. This is a guy bringing the richness of all of his musical interests to bear on a single album, and giving listeners credit for being able to handle the diversity of moods and settings.

However, the range of music here would prove to be a challenge to some “fans” with built-in expectations. As some of the album’s customer reviews on attest, many of Byrne’s fans from the Talking Heads days weren’t willing to follow him into some of this territory. Ironic that devotees of a band who once challenged expectations and broadened rock’s palatte would end up complaining that Byrne’s new stuff wasn’t the “same as it ever was”. I was surprised to read this is his only album to miss the Billboard top 200 album chart completely. The “fans” are simply wrong about this one. And if you come to it without expectations as I did you’ll find Grown Backwards contains lots of enjoyable musical moments.

Listen to: “Glass, Concrete and Stone”


Listen to: “The Man Who Loved Beer”


Listen to: “Au Fond du Temple Saint”


Listen to: “Dialog Box”

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