And you may find yourself... in an Ikea store

Jonathan Brown
Thursday 10 January 2008 01:00 GMT

As the mad professor of post-punk New York cool, David Byrne's lyrics placed him in any number of diverting situations: living in a shotgun shack, on a road to nowhere, an ordinary guy burning down the house.

But even these lurid flights of fantasy could not prepare the Scottish-born former Talking Heads star for what was to prove a truly once in a lifetime experience – a trip to Ikea.

Having been persuaded by his sister that he should take his elderly parents along to the global mecca of Scandinavian flat-pack design for a "look-see", Byrne described on his internet blog how he was left struggling to come to terms with his surroundings.

"Who lives here? What do they do? Why is that book on the table? Is that significant? Could it be some kind of clue to the occupant's identity?" he asked on the blog, which has become an international focal point for those who love both his music and musings.

"Why does everything have weird names? Every container, shelf, cabinet or appliance had some odd name, as if people from Planet Sweden anthropomorphised these objects naming each one they encountered as best they could," he observed. Byrne uses his online journal to cast his distinctive eye over any number of topics. Whether it be scientific journals debating the relative behaviours of Amazonian river dolphins to a recent trip to the Berlin Stasi Museum, Byrne's blog reads like the sort of after-dinner conversation one might expect to hear at the more chi-chi Manhattan dinner parties.

The Ikea day trip was a classic of its kind. Byrne imagines the shopping experience as a game, complete with meatballs and free measuring tapes, where players, typically young married couples, follow the store's "one-way" layout as they battle to match cabinets made of "various wood-like material" with sofas, soft furnishings and floor coverings, all the time wrestling with the famously confusing Swedish names.

"Only when they get home will they know if they have truly exited the game, or if they need to return for another round," he concludes.

Byrne, who once sported an outsize suit to accompany what The New York Times recently described as his "nerve-wracked data age persona", today cuts an altogether more donnish figure. Though it may be nearly 17 years since Talking Heads split, he remains a powerful influence on younger bands – notably Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – and is also a ubiquitous figure on his adopted city's art scene.

Since going solo he has enjoyed success not just in music but across any number of media, the internet being the latest. He is described variously as author, photographer, film director and television presenter, while one of his more challenging forays saw him attempt to turn Microsoft's PowerPoint presentation software into an art form.

Alongside the experimental folk music of his later oeuvre is a multi-media song cycle, written with Fatboy Slim, based on the rise and fall of the shoe-loving demagogue Imelda Marcos. His recent show, Furnishing the Self – Upholstering the Soul, preceded his brush with Ikea, but revealed a hitherto unknown love of furniture.

Read David Byrne's blog at:

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