Love This Giant, the collaborative album of jack-of-all-musical-trades avant-guardian, David Byrne and the twisted, power guitar princess, Annie Clark of St. Vincent, is released today, amidst a thick of critical and popular hype. The music video for “Who”, the first single off the album was also released today. In it, Byrne and Clark alternate napping and dancing on a back road while Byrne chugs a small bottle of alcohol and looks around bewildered. The two highly regarded composers of the Rock and Indie soundscape are a brilliant pairing and the result is an impressive show of artsy, city-jazz driven production with a brass backbone and synthetic flairs. But for all the fireworks of the collaboration, it seems like the work of two individuals, each taking turns speaking while the other one naps.
The album can serve as an introduction to either artist. For Byrne, whose numerous projects leave him with few genres or creative he hasn’t worked with, Love This Giant is his experimental venture powered by bass and rhythm lines performed by over a dozen trumpet, saxophone, and trombone players. Clark also has a history of unique Pop experimentation and joins Byrne writing around the explosive horn section. But the signature of St. Vincent’s previous three albums is the fiery brash electric lead and here that is often missing or found off in the background. Instead, the Indie queen puts down the axe and relies on the cerebral structure and polished perfectionism for which she is known.
The record plays out like a conversation between two old college professors. They each present their individual sonic experimentations with an occasional piece in unison. It is stimulating, highly intelligent and structured, but it lacks an invitation to the rest of us. We struggle to follow drifting vocal lines and quick shifts in tempo, and that confusion may be the intended reaction of the audience.
Although Love This Giant feels aloof at times, there is no denying that the collection is technically superb. Intricately crafted instrumentals and effects are carefully woven to create a jazzy, electrified chaos that continually returns to base with a flash of trumpet. No element is out of place and this best exemplified on the opening number “Who,” the most accessible and danceable tune of the bunch. Busting out with a powerful sax hook, it swings into Byrne braying the verse, backed up by fuzzy distorted guitar and sideline shouts. Clark’s sugary voice slides in for the refrain, making this one of the most balanced pieces on the album.
Clark says the record cover has an “underlying theme of Beauty and the Beast” contrasting the hyper-perfect and the grotesque, which is a fitting theme. Clark and Byrne prove that they can do it all. They can create the sweet melodic fairytale silhouette and fill it with disorienting shifts and washes of villainous sound, only it’s not a story we recognize. It feels like the duo understands each other and what they created…even if the rest of us cannot.