As the recent relaunch of his Luaka Bop label has borne out, Byrne’s got an ear for talent and enough guts to follow it through by simply signing the acts he likes.
Susana Baca, Los Amigos Invisibles, Waldemar Bastos, Tom Ze and Jim White are one superbly genre-defying roster The label is far more than just a vanity project. However, the argument could be made that its existence has helped to confuse Byrne’s own musical career. His increased exposure to and interest in a wild array of musics have done wonders for his label, and his enthusiasm about the music he issues can’t be doubted. But the same enthusiasm has resulted in several messy records, overwhelmed by their influences and swamped by their own eclecticism.
This is an improvement. Byrne’s still working in bits and pieces from other musics, but happily, he’s remembered how to write a tune.
It’s at its best when it gets carried away on its a joyous, summery vibe, as it does on Like Humans Do and the glorious Neighborhood; it’s less successful when it tries to be too smart, as on UB Jesus. Bryne has always pursued tangents and this one also has dark little corners to get lost in. Solid.