Byrne Solos for a New Family of Man : DAVID BYRNE “Rei Momo.” Fly/Sire *** 1/2
The most telling title on Byrne’s first conventional (at least by Byrne standards) solo album is “Don’t Want to Be Part of Your World.” The song’s call for retreat from the everyday horrors of our world--reminiscent of Steely Dan’s claim that “any world that I’m welcome to is better than the one I come from"--is perhaps an explanation for his decade-long musical trek through Third World cultures.
But where the Dan’s song was a weary, cynical loner’s credo, Byrne’s develops into an expansive dreamer’s plea that is downright sweet: He does want to be part of the world; he just wants it to be a nice place. Thus, the album is populated with dreamers and escapists, as if Byrne is bringing them together into a new family of man, just as he has symbolically brought together different musical cultures throughout his career.
Consequently, his use of Latin American music and musicians on this album is almost incidental, and the overall impression is not much different from last year’s Talking Heads album “Naked,” which utilized similarly infectious zouk rhythms.
Which isn’t to say the music is incidental: The bubbly sambas, merengues and other Latin styles are as attractive, accomplished and, indeed, sexy as anything Byrne has ever done, and the collaborations with such Latin greats as Willie Colon are vibrant and colorful. But this is not a South American album any more than Paul Simon’s “Graceland” was a South African album. It’s a David Byrne project through and through, with all the usual superlatives applicable.