Brian Eno/David Byrne - My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts
Fresh out of a collaboration with producer Brian Eno that had lasted for three albums - More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music and Remain In Light - Talking Heads decided to take a short break following an extensive world tour to concentrate on solo projects before agreeing to reconvene for 1983's Speaking in Tongues. With Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth working on what would become The Tom Tom Club and Jerry Harrison recording a solo album, David Byrne and Brian Eno agreed to release one further album credited to Bryne/Eno and which would continue using the dense African/tribal rhythms of Remain In Light but would switch Byrne's lyrics, which had occasionally and uncomfortably mixed the nervous energy of the American east-cost with the politics of the developing world, for samples and found sounds from American life and media and field recordings from South America, Asia and Africa. Taking its title from a novel by Amos Tutuola, this record was to be titled My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts and, from its release in 1982, would predate popular trends in electronic music by several years.
My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts opens with the twisting funk, brittle guitars and skittering rhythms of America Is Waiting over which a recording of an indignant American radio talkshow host informs us that, "America is waiting for a message of some sort or another." Given that this recording, as well as others on the album, dates from 1980 - the year in which Reagan was elected - the album captures the sense of the political mood at the time, with the talkshow host declaring that, "...we ought to be mad at the government...Absolutely no honour." Mea Culpa, the album's second track, follows on a similarly political theme but offsets the funk of America Is Waiting with a heavy military drumbeat and the speeded-up words of a politician apologising on a radio show whilst Regiment and Help Me Somebody bring Middle-Eastern influences courtesy of Lebanese mountain singer Dunya Yusin and a chopped-up sermon from Reverend Paul Morton, respectively, into instrumentals that are not terribly far from those that backed Byrne in Remain In Light.
The centrepiece and undoubted highlight of the album is The Jezebel Spirt in which just under five minutes of dense and suitably sinister rhythms clash under a chirruping synth and a recording/sampling of an exorcism taped in New York. As the exorcist, who is unidentified, laughs and the woman he is attempting to heal exhales noisily, the spirit, if there is one, is told to, "Loosen your hold and come out of her now...You have no right to her, her husband is the head of the house / [Come] out...Let Jesus in." The effect is both genuinely disturbing, indeed it is often spine-chilling in its development of the rhythm against the recording of the exorcism, but, in different circumstances, has enough of a shake about it that it could be pumped out of a PA system in a club.
After that highlight, whilst there is a slight drop in the music and use of samples, it is only just noticeable. Very, Very Hungry is admittedly a rather slight piece but the use of The Moving Star Hall Singers on Moonlight In Glory, both expounding on the extent of their faith and weary of the trials placed before them by God, is outstanding, placing the gospel of the vocals against the deep electronica as offered by Byrne and Eno. The next track, The Carrier, is similarly great in taking the textures of one of Talking Heads' better songs - The Overload from Remain In Light - and having them groan under the vocals of, once again, Dunya Yusin.
From the highs of The Jezebel Spirit, Moonlight In Glory and The Carrier - three songs that could easily stand alongside the very best of Talking Heads - the final three songs, being A Secret Life, Come With Us and Mountain Of Needles, sound as though Eno and Byrne ran out of ideas. Each of these three tracks are littler more than formless bleeps that would have been better suited to a sound-effects album and, despite the reduced length, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts would have been better had it ended with The Carrier, much as Remain In Light ended with the similar The Overload.
My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts will appeal not only to those fans of Eno, Byrne or Talking Heads, specifically those who favour I Zimbra and Remain In Light over any of their other releases, but also those who prefer clipped funk and sampling to what they might consider to be dull, white rock. Whilst occasionally great, there are, however, a number of tracks that are noticeable for being filler and although it can be recommended on the strength of The Jezebel Spirit and Moonlight In Glory, it is not done so without reservations.