splendid > reviews > 9/15/2003
David Byrne
David Byrne
Lead Us Not Into Temptation
Thrill Jockey

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Inexorable"

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Young Adam is the story of a drifter, a barge and a corpse. Written by nearly-forgotten counterculture icon Alexander Trocchi and first published in 1954, it runs in the vein of Trainspotting and the like, filled with menace, loathing and sex. (Interestingly, Trainspotting's Ewan MacGregor plays the main character in both film adaptations.) Lead Us Not into Temptation: Music from the Film Young Adam is the lush musical accompaniment to a tale of secrets, lust and a past that can't be outrun. The soundtrack to such a story could easily have become melodramatic, overwrought or predictable, but David Byrne, bottled genius that he is, sidesteps all foreseeable pitfalls and instead delivers a disc that crests upon a mood of captivating, liberating dread.

This is music that very confidently leads us down the wrong path. There's no meandering here; Byrne may allow us to dawdle along the way, but he urges us along at a steady clip. He has a clear idea of where we're headed and he's not about to let us get sidetracked or wander off course. I get no sense that Byrne's musical ideas were in any way restricted here; the soundtrack is wholly original and moment-to-moment, rather than being strung out to fit a fixed time limit or measured beats. His vision appears to be his own, and just happens to coincide with both the director's and the author's visions also, resulting in one of the best soundtracks -- and albums -- I've heard in a long time.

The beautifully macabre "Body in a River" opens the disc, telling of a fascination with and acceptance of death while drolly wondering why the world must allow it to pass -- all without saying a word. Byrne and his fifteen collaborators on strings, keys and percussion evoke a crisp and penetrating mood without the use of many vocals; in fact, voice is forsaken almost completely, except on the last two tracks. I support the decision thoroughly, as vocals would only have polluted these pieces' pristine emotion. "Seaside Smokes" is the veneer of cool that allows us to exist in a world filled with death without going mad, while "Inexorable" is a jaunty tune you might expect to hear laid over a scene of the unwitting rascal, bicycling his way across the countryside en route to his own demise. "Warm Sheets", with its alternately foreboding and indulgent strings and organ, elicits a rich romantic fulfillment with a decidedly grey lining. Byrne and his band also do incredible justice to Charles Mingus's "Haitian Fight Song", adding just the right dose of punchy, smoky jazz to the mix.

Lead Us Not into Temptation, despite being mostly instrumental, doesn't fade placidly into the background. It's too demanding for that, too precise, too malevolent to be dismissed or overlooked. It knows you'll cast your gaze upon it sooner rather than later, and it will draw you in. This is one of those rare cases where the soundtrack actually compels me to want to see the film. I'm sure it will flit by on a Pittsburgh art house screen sooner or later, if it hasn't completely slipped beneath my radar already. I look forward to it. And if the movie should fail to engender the same fascination as the soundtrack itself has, well, I'll always have the album.



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