Here’s a song with literary reference. It takes its title from a 1951 Tennessee Williams play, or its better-known film adaptation. I haven’t seen the movie or the play, and I don’t understand the Spanish parts of the song, so I can’t tell you how much of a reference it really is. But David Byrne seems like he would know his Tennessee Williams, so I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I guess that’s a homework assignment for me, then.
Rei Momo is pretty brilliant. David Byrne managed to cram in fifteen different musical styles, none of which were rock’n’roll or even a conventional ingredient of rock’n’roll. It was like he was saying “welcome to the rest of the world”. And yet, even with the rumbas and salsas, it was still somehow a rock’n’roll album. Maybe because though Byrne brought in new and exotic style of drumming, he never let go of his familiar clever rock star persona. It would have been weird if he’d tried to sing different, or in Spanish, or – god forbid! – affected a culturally insensitive accent. But it was the same David Byrne with his deadpan humor and nerdy stage presence. It helped American audiences accept rumba as not something inexplicable and foreign, but a vivid musical style that could be about anything and enjoyed by anybody. Because American audiences inevitably need an introduction from a nerdy white guy before they’ll accept anything non-English-language originated.