David Byrne and St. Vincent
‘Love This Giant' (4AD/Todo Mundo)
In its style and its substance, David Byrne and St. Vincent's “Love This Giant” sounds exactly like its constituent parts, with neither party dominating and each working to complement the other's undeniable strengths. True, Byrne and Tulsa-born Annie Clark are both oddball experimentalists who spike their avant-garde transgressions with just enough pop to make them go down smoothly, but they come from different corners of the art-pop world. Byrne is the visitor peering in on the pan-global traditions of rhythm, while St. Vincent is the Robert Fripp guitar disciple with a penchant for Grimm and noir. And yet, “Love This Giant” is seamless, a mind-melding of Byrne and Clark's individual curiosities, as perfect a cross-pollination as Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' “Raising Sand.”
“Who” begins “Love This Giant” with a flurry of brass, a big bundle of multicultural horn sounds that sticks around for most of the running time, whether it's the complicated arpeggios of the Clark-led “The Forest Awakes” or the Afro-Cuban grooves supplied by the Dap Kings and Antibalas on the lovely “The One Who Broke Your Heart.” While “Who” is an even-split duet, most of “Love This Giant” has Clark and Byrne trading off on lead vocals while the other sings backup. Beyond her distinctively crystalline vocals, Clark is felt most in the chord progressions — she is never one to take the easy way through a song.
Byrne is twice Clark's age, and yet his voice is still as supple and idiosyncratic as it was during his tenure with Talking Heads. His fascinations with humanity's quirks are little changed since those days. On “I Should Watch TV,” Byrne sings, “I used to think that I should watch TV, I used to think that it was good for me/ Wanted to know what folks are thinking, to understand the land I live in.” It plays like a sequel to “Television Man” from “Little Creatures,” and in a sense, remote observation suits Byrne, then and now. But when he fully engages with Clark on “Love This Giant,” the two outsiders sound like they have found the club for two they always wanted.
— George Lang