You don’t think of former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne as an evangelist, except for those crazy Brazilian, African and Afro-Caribbean beats that practically broke poor drummer Chris Frantz’s wrists and led Byrne off to a solo career of promoting world music. If Byrne and his bandmates were attracted to Christian music and artwork (as in the cover art by Christian outsider artist Howard Finster for their 1986 album “Little Creatures”), it was part of their passion for Americana. A Gideon’s Bible was as interesting as a little-league ball field or an empty highway.
So it’s surprising to hear, in an article by The New York Times’ Jon Pareles on Sunday, that Bryne and his bandmates turned British avant-garde rocker Brian Eno on to gospel music. More surprising is that behind the “folk-gospel sound” of Byrne’s new album, his second collaboration with Eno, is a bit of Bryne’s spiritual self. Though a sense of faith is hinted at in later T-Heads albums, I’ve never heard Byrne explicitly address religion or utter a spiritual thought.
Asked about spirituality in his music, Bryne told Pareles, “I’m always thinking about it, but not overtly. That might frighten me. Probably like a lot of people, I feel alienated from the traditional models that were presented to me as a child and eventually I left those and said ‘That doesn’t seem relevant to me.’ But like a lot of people, I have some longing for transcending those things in some way shape or form.”
Okay, so his take is pretty standard Boomer religious-not-spiritual. But for fans, it’s new ground all the same.