The world doesn’t need another greatest hits album — we’ve already got three goddamn Essential REO Speedwagon collections, and enough bargain-basement repackaged crap to fill truck stop carousels from coast to coast. That’s why, instead of an artist’s very best, we’re bringing you their very guest tracks: Five killer cameo appearances on other artists’ albums. This week, it’s erstwhile Talking Head and passionate bicyclist David Byrne!
N.A.S.A. – The People Tree (from The Spirit of Apollo)
On an album full of “wait, what?” collaborations, this track stands out: Chali 2na (ex-Jurassic 5) and Gift of Gab (Blackalicious) trade rapid-fire, brain-burrowing verses over a brass-laced number about the story of creation, while Byrne sings with the loopy grace of an angel on the hook. “Tasty little human beings / Grow them on my People Tree / I will eat them, one by one / There’s enough for everyone.” More like this, please.
Dirty Projectors and David Byrne – Knotty Pine (from Dark Was the Night)
The Red Hot compilations have brought us plenty of memorable collaborations over the years. Here, on the most recent collection, Byrne lends his pipes to a jaunty, angular Dirty Projectors number, their voices blending atop colliding guitar and piano. Then, just like that, it’s over.
Thievery Corporation – The Heart’s a Lonely Hunter (from The Cosmic Game)
With an Afro-Cuban feel (or “future-bossa” — whatever, freaks) that wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Byrne’s solo records, “The Heart’s a Lonely Hunter” adds a little booty-shaking power to Thievery Corporation’s guest-laden 2005 album, which also features cameos from Perry Farrell and Wayne Coyne. I’ll stick with David Byrne, thanks.
Maximum Balloon – Apartment Wrestling (from Maximum Balloon)
Facing some downtime between TV on the Radio projects, David Sitek decided to call himself Maximum Balloon and line up a bunch of special guests for an album of globetrotting 21st-century pop music. The jewel in the crown is this Byrne vocal, which reaches back to the strutting brass of his Uh-Oh album, adds some swirling electronic touches, and tops it all with a dollop of lyrical nonsense as only Byrne can deliver it. Repeat as necessary.
The Brighton Port Authority – Toe Jam (feat. David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal) (from Toe Jam)
Before they collaborated on a song cycle about Imelda Marcos, Byrne and Fatboy Slim rubbed shoulders in the latter’s Brighton Port Authority project, which lined up an eyebrow-raising list of guests (including Iggy Pop and Martha Wainwright) for a little artfully blended pop madness. “Toe Jam,” the best track of the bunch, pits Byrne at his herky-jerky best against a gleefully drunk Dizzee Rascal verse — all summed up in the classic line “Every day is fucking perfect / It’s a paradise.” Jam, y’all.