David Byrne and St. Vincent: Love This Giant
These things always seem like such a good idea on paper, don’t they? A collaboration between two iconoclasts who—though hailing from different generations—share a propensity for working subversive ideas into the peripheries of pop music is an exciting prospect, yes? Of course it is. But, as is often the case with meetings of such high-profile artistic minds, the results are almost always doomed to be disappointing. Either the artists retain too much of their individual personality—result: an off-balance clutch of sonic signifiers that never gel—or they slough off too much of what their trademark sounds—result: songs that don’t sound a thing like the artists whose name got you excited about this thing in the first place.
In the case of Love This Giant, the coming-together of Annie Clark and David Byrne definitely results in the latter disappointment; thankfully, that disappointment is the most interesting and sonically promising potential result of a collaboration such as this. No, Love This Giant really doesn’t sound much at all like any of the work that either of these two has done in the past; in fact, it’s so easily separated from their previous discographies that their distinctive voices are often the only recognizable signposts. Generally, the songs here are more simply built than the thickly layered, deeply textural intensity of the St. Vincent albums, with none of the pan-global quirkiness of Byrne’s solo work. Instead, we get little touches like the distorted didgeridoo drone on “Ice Age” (which, really, could have been either party’s contribution) that find the two communicating their shared sensibilities.
Meanwhile the bulk of the album blooms from weird digital constructions and half-decayed samples, oddly arranged horn blasts and orchestrations, and a percussive sensibility that seems relentlessly dedicated to avoiding traditional rhythms at all costs. (One notable exception: the cracking Linn drum break on “I Should Watch TV” which is just about the perfect backdrop to Byrne’s funky, resonant take on ’80s-style paranoia.) It is, in other words, a deeply weird and deeply lovely record, albeit one that listeners should do their best to listen to with as few preconceptions as possible. A tall order, perhaps, but one that will help avoid disappointment.