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 meringue 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. But it also helps contextualise the late-1990s fascination with native Cuban popular music, as well as the 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
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