ANDY GILL ON ALBUMS

David Byrne: Feelings Luaka Bop 9362-46605-2
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Returning to something like his usual zestful form after the disappointingly dour David Byrne album, Feelings finds the pan-American renaissance nerd mixing up his influences and oddball musings with enthusiastic good humour again. The result is Byrne's best album since the excellent Uh-Oh!, a similar feast of eclecticism.

With collaborators as diverse as The Balanescu Quartet, trip-hoppers Morcheeba and Devo remnants Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale, Byrne's now-familiar Latin-flavoured pop is twisted into a series of intriguing shapes. A few, such as the attempt to marry little drum 'n' bass percussion flurries with cowpunk-rock on "Gates of Paradise", don't work too well; others, such as the blend of sitar, drone-guitar and fiddle in the faux- traditional pastiche "Daddy Go Down", work better than expected; and one or two, such as the opening "Fuzzy Freaky" and the insanely catchy "Dance on Vaseline", are as good as anything he has done. The hook-up with Morcheeba has been particularly fruitful: their laid-back style mellows out Byrne's characteristically jerky rhythms to produce some splendidly slinky grooves.

The mellow mood spreads to the lyrics, too: there is an undertow of playful hedonism tugging away at the heart of these songs which enables Byrne to sound uncommonly relaxed as he reflects on subjects as diverse as the dangerous appeal of America, the Oklahoma bombing ("This madness is attractive/ Until it happens to yourself"), and the strange efficacy of fate: "The laws of chance, strange as it seems, take us exactly where we need to be". In Byrne's case, this means everywhere at once.

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