“Love This Giant” – David Byrne and St Vincent

4 stars (out of 5)

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Product DetailsTrumpets (muted and otherwise), trombones, tuba, saxophones; if you can’t stand a brass band then don’t bother entering this experimental space that is the collaboration between the grandaddy of new wave, David Byrne, and super cool new girl Annie Clark aka St Vincent. The majority of the songs here feature either Byrne or St Vincent singing solo, a few are actual duets but almost every second of each track is crammed full with a parping, swelling or squeaking wind instrument sounding off; it’s very much the third, non-credited party here.

David Byrne sounds very much at home in this musical landscape, an artist who has collaborated with many world music artists and has also produces music in his own right that incorporates many eclectic, diverse styles from various cultures (1992’s “Uh-Oh” album for example), not even taking into account Talking Heads. St Vincent makes queasy, dark, melodic indie pop and is a fantastic guitarist. She is an artist that has slowly, over the course of 3 albums, each better than the last, has established herself as a significant new talent, a fascinating artist very much in her prime whose best work is probably yet to come. But it’s actually the horns that tie the 12 tracks here together, providing a constant, nurturing narrative regardless of who takes the lead.

David Byrne sounds very much like David Byrne on the majority of this album, a cerebral, wise but paranoid voice: St Vincent though goes places she hasn’t before with some fascinating results. This is a funky album, it’s politely and quietly funky and never really works up a sweat but play it at home at a decent volume level and you will be inclined to move around a bit, I guarantee. St Vincent, unlike Byrne, has never, ever been funky.  On “Weekend In The Dust”, on which Byrne doesn’t feature, St Vincent’s vocals are soulful and flirtatious and tightly harmonised, with an ‘I don’t get it, I just don’t get it’ refrain sung over chunky horns and a r’n’b beat; it’s not just a curio it’s a success. On “Ice Age”, which is the most typical St Vincent track here, after a sudden key change in the second verse the angular, staccato horns and bass guitar start to lose control around her. She is also responsible for the best song, the languid and glistening, world-weary “Optimist”; a gorgeous, solo performance.

I Should Watch TV” and “Dinner for Two” see David Byrne typically bewildered and unsettled by metropolitan, urbane situations and are both excellent songs with elegant arrangements and crisp execution. Of the actual, proper duets between the two, of which there are actually only a couple (although they co-wrote the whole thing together, music and lyrics) “Lazarus” is a poised, assertive stand-off and makes you wish that there are more equal interactions between the two. The Dapp Kings are featured on the disappointingly flabby “The One Who Broke Your Heart” and why is St Vincent so buried on this track as she also is on the better “I Am An Ape” where she features as back-up singer to Byrne only?  Byrne’s voice dominates these songs entirely and it just feels like such a wasted opportunity.

 

It takes to time to settle into this odd, self contained album which doesn’t actually feel like a collaborative effort although I’m certain it is in the truest sense. David has his songs and St Vincent has hers and if you’re a fan of either, ideally both, then there is a lot here to recommend.