Alibi V.13 No.33 • Aug 12-18, 2004 

Sonic Reducer

David Byrne Grown Backwards (Nonesuch)

For a record that's being roundly heralded as his most brilliant work yet, David Byrne sounds, well, supremely bored on Grown Backwards. Even more string-heavy than Look Into the Eyeball, there are some gorgeous moments here and the sort of genius-level lyricism we've come to expect. The problem is his handling of the material. Instead of inspired-if-morose delivery a la Magnetic Fields' Stephen Merritt, we're left with a sort of “Hmm, maybe I'll record something today ... after morning tea” tone that, with a few notable exceptions (“Dialog Box,” “Tiny Apocalypse”), does little to convince us to keep listening to him.

Cherie Cherie (Lava/Atlantic)

In the same way I don't mind Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton's music, I don't mind the debut by teen chanteuse-of-the-month, Cherie. It's got the same youthful charm and exuberance that made Nelly Furtado's Whoa, Nelly! a pleasure through and through. Musically, Cherie's eponymous album is less exotic and challenging than debut's by Furtado or either of the aforementioned young artists, but Cherie's got a voice just powerful enough to enchant without resorting to Mariah Carey-like over-the-topishness and enough sincerity to keep us interested in what is basically harmless summertime pop.

Trevor Dunn's Trio Convulsant Sister Phantom Owl Fish (Ipecac)

There are moments on Trevor Dunn's (Mr. Bungle and Fantomas fame) second release as leader of his avant garde jazz-influenced trio that will make you want to chew an empty, salted margarita glass. There are others that will fool you into believing some sort of structure is being laid out that will have an identifiable middle and end. The rest are so freaking far out of the wig they're either pure sonic nonsense or pure sonic brilliance. There's no doubt Dunn had a good time with this. The question is: Will you? After multiple listens, I can't answer that.