erasing clouds

David Byrne, Lead Us Not Into Temptation

reviewed by anna battista

In the novel Young Adam, writer Alexander Trocchi describes Glasgow as a bleak city, a city where the grey of the sky meets and merges with the black of the canal and river waters. Trocchi was right, Glasgow might indeed be a bleak place, but its bleakness is compensated by a great and unique local music scene. Perhaps it's for this reason that David Byrne decided to choose random members of Scottish bands to record the soundtrack for David Mackenzie's movie, Young Adam, obviously taken from Trocchi's novel.

Helped by Mogwai's Barry Burns, Cruiser and Mogwai's Caroline Barber, Appendix Out's Alasdair Roberts, Future Pilot AKA's Una McGlone and Raymond MacDonald, Snow Patrol's Johnny Quinn, The Delgados' (arrangements wizard) Malcolm Lindsay and Belle & Sebastian's Richard Colburn (all co-ordinated by DJ Gill Mills who runs Hoover Dam, an organisation that promotes collaborations between Scottish and American musicians), David Byrne has woven a disturbing but beautiful musical tapestry. Dark, sad and sombre, Lead Us Not Into Temptation is a visual album, an extension of the proper film.

In Young Adam, Trocchi describes, almost at the beginning of the book, the finding of a dead woman's body in the River Clyde, and the very first track of Byrne's album, "Body in a River", perfectly creates the gloomy atmosphere of the novel. The second track, "Mnemonic Discordance", is disordered and discordant, enriched with samples of church gates screeching and trains whistling, a tribute in a way to Trocchi's style and to Joe, his main character, who tries to tell the reader his story rewinding and fast-forwarding the tape of his memory. A touch of jazz, almost an interval of light in the darkness, follows with "Seaside Smokes" and a Charles Mingus' cover, "Haitian Fights Song".

Cascading violins, violas, cellos and double bass can be heard in most of the songs, such as in the indeterminately sweet "The Lodger" and in "Sex on the Docks", a cinematic sensual repetitive crescendo of guitars, a drone constantly changing and transforming. Byrne can be heard singing in the last two songs, "Speechless" and "The Great Western Road." The latter is Byrne's personal homage to Glasgow's thoroughfare that follows the River Clyde west to the former shipyards in Dumbarton where Byrne was born (check also the references to Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street and Kelvingrove, the places where Byrne used to pass to go to the studio where he was recording the album).

Lead Us Not Into Temptation is a sexy and ominous album, like Alexander Trocchi's Young Adam is sexy and ominous, and, like the latter, it oozes love, hate, sadness and mighty talent. Being led into temptation has never felt so good.


Issue 16, October 2003

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