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The Knee Plays

David Byrne

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Album Review

For David Byrne, this was one of the last times he would write in the hyperobjective style that marked his work with Talking Heads up through Remain in Light and some of Speaking in Tongues. The occasion, the chance to write interludes — or "knee plays" — for a large scale Robert Wilson opera, The Civil Wars, called on this kind of approach, Wilson being as detached as Byrne. Musically, Byrne was strangely influenced by hearing the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and created these brass-led marches that sound like an art school has landed on Bourbon Street, though in places it is also reminiscent of a sunnier patch of the territory staked out in The Catherine Wheel, his other dance score. In the mix, Byrne stirs in some traditional gospel tunes, arranged to match the iconoclastic style. Byrne's words, performed in his dry, ever-so-slightly amused style, are acutely observed and/or humorously naïve slices of American life — anthropological tomfoolery. The wry aphorism-led "In the Future" ("In the future, water will be expensive"; "In the future, we will not have time for leisure activities") is the album highlight, and a perfect end to this experiment. [Nonesuch issued The Knee Plays on CD for the first time in 2007, adding eight bonus tracks to the original release.]

Biography

Born: May 14, 1952 in Dumbarton, Scotland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Although best known for his groundbreaking tenure fronting the new wave group Talking Heads, David Byrne also received acclaim for his adventurous solo career, encroaching upon such diverse media as world music, filmmaking, and performance art in the process. Born in Dumbarton, Scotland, on May 14, 1952, Byrne was raised in Baltimore, MD. The son of an electronics engineer, he played guitar in a series of teenage bands before attending the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, where, feeling...
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