Three years after Paul Simon's Graceland, the most identifiable member (by far) of the Talking Heads ventured way beyond his band's terrain with his solo debut. With Rei Momo, David Byrne inaugurated his plunge into Latin ... more »American music, doing so with a variety of styles, from son to salsa to merengue to samba, each lit with horn charts and piles of rhythm. The album, like Graceland, inspired some critiques (many of them vehement) of Byrne's cherry picking of styles, which smacked a bit of postmodern exotica. The album certainly genre hops, mixing national styles with lyrics that gnash about Latin American political and human rights concerns. Released a decade prior to the late-1990s fascination with native Cuban popular music, Rei Momo sheds light on the background for the explosion of interest in Buena Vista Social Club as well as the meteoric rise of Latin pop, which shares Byrne's border-agnostic mesh of all available styles. More than anything, though, Rei Momo stands as one of Byrne's most inspired outings, perhaps even as an early pinnacle of his now-lengthy solo career. --Andrew Bartlett« less
Three years after Paul Simon's Graceland, the most identifiable member (by far) of the Talking Heads ventured way beyond his band's terrain with his solo debut. With Rei Momo, David Byrne inaugurated his plunge into Latin American music, doing so with a variety of styles, from son to salsa to merengue to samba, each lit with horn charts and piles of rhythm. The album, like Graceland, inspired some critiques (many of them vehement) of Byrne's cherry picking of styles, which smacked a bit of postmodern exotica. The album certainly genre hops, mixing national styles with lyrics that gnash about Latin American political and human rights concerns. Released a decade prior to the late-1990s fascination with native Cuban popular music, Rei Momo sheds light on the background for the explosion of interest in Buena Vista Social Club as well as the meteoric rise of Latin pop, which shares Byrne's border-agnostic mesh of all available styles. More than anything, though, Rei Momo stands as one of Byrne's most inspired outings, perhaps even as an early pinnacle of his now-lengthy solo career. --Andrew Bartlett
"This album contains one of pop music's most double-take inducing opening lines (find out for yourself). Soon, though, the lyrics blend amazingly with the rich latin-hued music that dominates the entire album. The fun never lets up until the meditative and insect-accompanied 'I Know Sometimes A Man is Wrong' closes the party.
This wasn't really David Byrne's first 'solo' album. But since he released it after the Talking Heads' rather anti-climactic breakup (no farewell tour or big press releases accompanied this sad event, but perhaps it surprised no one) the album easily gets subsumed this way (1985's all-solo - i.e., no Brain Eno - 'Music for the Knee Plays' technically fulfills this function; this unjustifiably still remains unreleased on CD).
When 'Rei Momo' came out in 1989 some critics complained that Byrne had left his Talking Heads heritage behind. They wanted more 'Cities', 'Once in a Lifetime', and 'Psycho Killer' (who can blame them?). But this release should not have come as too much of a surprise given the Talking Heads' latin pop-tinged final album, 'Naked'. 'Rei Momo' completes the structure that 'Naked' began building. Many said it then: Byrne has gone 'latin loco'.
David Byrne fans will recognize his style in every song, regardless of the musical tone. Though the off-kilter 'Independence Day' may initially throw some listeners for a loop. Give it time, give it time.
The energy never lets up. From 'Independence Day's' beautiful and surprising violin solo the beats roll and tumble at you, inspiring wiggly behavior humans often associate with dancing and joy. This is a very musically happy album. Dance.
Inspired by the South American pop Byrne featured on his Luaka-Bop albums (The 'Brazil Classics' series, Tom Zé, etc.), 'Rei Momo' explodes with horns, shakers, graters, congas, plucky guitars, sprightly piano, violins, the occassional Portugese phrase, open-throated wailing, and even Celia Cruz. Despite the influence David Byrne permeates this album.
Some have complained that Byrne horribly misunderstood and misrepresented the rhythyms and music that inspired this album. The song list also includes 'styles' in parentheses (e.g., 'Cumbia', 'Merengue', 'Samba', 'Pagode', etc). Maybe he did. This might bother latin music aficionados, but David Byrne fans probably won't bat an eye. Not to mention that it's very possible that 'Rei Momo' opened a new musical world for many listeners in the United States. Those who didn't go out and pick up some home-grown Brazilian or South American pop after hearing this probably weren't paying attention. Though 'Rei Momo' didn't cause a latin-pop music explosion in the USA (radio stations mostly ignored it), at least Byrne tried. It remains and will always be an amazing effort and a great album from start to finish."
Fred McGhee | Austin, TX | 11/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a pioneering effort that more high level artists should have the courage to attempt. Perhaps they haven't because they don't possess the unique combination of musicianship, literacy, wit, and broad and empathic appreciation that David Byrne does. I suppose they also are afraid to go their own way with their own label, like he has. As good as some of his songs may be, for some reason I find it hard to picture a pure pop musician like Lenny Kravitz, for instance, doing something as experimental as this..... Like the Beatles, David Byrne at his best is not only one of the most popular at what he does, he is also one of the BEST as well. And that's the real challenge for a serious pop musician, isn't it?It is clear that Byrne has genuine respect and love for this music, as well as other forms of world music. He obviously has a better sense of humor than Peter Gabriel, however, and isn't afraid to shake his populist ... with the masses. That only makes him more appealing.Snobs, like our Spanish writing reviewer, will see this album primarily as an Anglo intrusion, as cultural imperialism. What a shame. David Byrne has probably done more to break down barriers with his label, concerts, and other activities than almost any other major musician. David Byrne is a true fan and I'm very glad that he has enough respect for his audience to share nothing but the best. He does this live too...I saw him here in Hawaii early in 2002, and the place practically exploded with love for him. This is not a completely perfect record. But is that really the point? The things that DO work on this record are absolutely intriguing, unique, and put on wax the exact sort of hybridity that will mark the twenty-first century and beyond.Kudos to DB for being such a sly MF."
Inspired Work - and ahead of its time
Maria-Rosa de Hacia | 05/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ahead by a good ten years, I'd say. The fact is, that no matter how you come to it, if you get a chance to be exposed to Latin rhythm and culture, it is worth it from my POV. As a Mexicana, I am honored that Byrne would so faithfully reproduce the sounds I loved when I lived in "Nueva Yor", as I call it. The lyrics are the real draw here. Witty and incisive, they play off the exotic tapestry of sound. I cannot begin to mention all the great ones, but here are a few:"My bed is flyin' out the window, I'm pullin' up my covers to the rain. And down below cats are howlin', it's a family affair." (from Independence Day) "This compass points in two directions, and North and South are both the same." (same) "Maybe you'll pray, but God isn't home, and there's no guarantee that justice be done" (Dirty Old Town) "Like a pizza in the rain, no one wants to take you home" (Loco de Amor) "Messin' round like monkeys and apes... they turned 'em loose, they turned into people" (Good and Evil)And on it goes. For someone like me, a fan of Steely Dan, Elvis Costello, and Bob Dylan, this is a feast. But to combine with Español and back it with a Latin beat (take your pick: salsa, samba, rumba, charanga, to name a few) is irresistable. I've loved this album ever since it was released in 1989. Not a bad cut on it, but the afforementioned, plus "Rose Tattoo", "Make Believe Mambo", "Don't Want to Be Part of Your World", and "Lie to Me" also make my list of favorites here.Please do NOT judge this by any preconceived notions, not let others' negative reactions influence you. This is the thinking man's approach to cultural synthesis, and as such, is an unqualified TRIUMPH."
It is cultural cannibalism, but its sublime
Maria-Rosa de Hacia | 08/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What right has David Byrne to slog through other cultures, vacuuming up "authentic" music? Every right, when the music is as good as this.Make no mistake, this isn't "Latin" music, this is "David Byrne does Latin music". The beats, the players etc are all real enough, but whether you like it or hate it will be because of Byrne's distinctively edgey aesthetic . . .For better and more authentic musicianship of similar material, you could turn to Jesus Alemany's "Cubanismo" and "Malembe", but that's a different thing. . .what is glorious about Rei Momo is Byrne- you either accept his right to fuse traditional latin music into his post-punk funky nihilism, or you don't.NB: If you like Byrne in this mode, you would also like his recording of "The Rivers of March", recorded with Marisa Monte . . .a great take on a classic, recorded on Red, Hot and Blue (I think that's correct)"
Viva La Momo
jmaehre | Ann Arbor, MI United States | 04/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am not and can't be inside the consciousness of a world music purist, so the tongue-clucking of such over a Caucasian American making Latin music with rock lyrics is neither sensible to me nor the rightful objects of my criticisms. But for those who say, "I liked David Byrne until he got into all that Brazilian stuff" I rejoin, "Grow up." Listen with an open mind. Your Third Eye Blind CD will still be there when you are done. This album presents rampant creativity, joyous, infectious rhythms with soaring horn parts and chugging, swirling, intoxicating melodies. Best tracks are "Call of the Wild" "Don't Want to Live in Your World" and "Independence Day." All will transport you, create visions in your mind, make you dance. David Byrne is called the smartest man in pop music, a dubious distinction. But he's soulful as well, and expansive in his artistry."