Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Review: David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant

 Through the course of three album's culminating thus far in last year's fantastic Strange Mercy, New York songwriter Annie Clark, under the guise of St. Vincent has proved herself an accomplished songwriter, with the skills that allows her to pen a real song with real melodies that can instantly get stuck in your head, that also shows a little more intelligence and an ability to think out of the box when constructing musical passages, backdrops and lyrics. She also proved in her Record Store Day single Grot that she can shred like a goddess but that's another story for another time. Either way, St. Vincent is without a doubt one of the most dynamic songwriters and most forward thinking musicians of our age.

 Therefore it makes perfect sense that she would team up with someone viewed as the most dynamic songwriters and forward thinking musicians of a previous age. David Byrne, former frontman of the critically acclaimed yet still somewhat underrated Talking Heads proved throughout the late 1970's and 1980's to be able to create some genius and truly unique songs without even trying. After all much of the band's catalogue were songs developed from improvised band jams, a method not used enough today. Having gone on to continue writing pop friendly songs of a more experimental nature, he is a man unlikely to venture into the norm for songwriting any time soon.

 So, when the two finally come together to collaborate on the album Love This Giant, things do not go down as anyone may expect as much as one would like it to. But, these are two artists that always like to keep the plate fresh and that is definitely something done throughout this album, particularly considering the vast amount of brass that plays throughout every pop soaked melody, that overall gives the album a warmer friendlier tone, and just manages to wean off of album gimmick territory.

 With the album's setup being this warm brass, the real challenge that Clark and Byrne are faced with is adapting this backdrop to create a certain kind of tone to set different songs to. And with the graceful delicacy of Clark's vocals and the effervescent charisma that still lingers within Byrne, a fairly easy job is made of this. From the utter sense of bliss put into opener Who to the dirge-like overtones of I Am an Ape, the pair can go from sounding quaint and ditty to being completely somber.

 More exciting are the moments, when a clear sense of anger can be identified but purely through the undertones of the song, as you can find through the constantly brewing storm that forms throughout A Weekend in the Dust and the gripping performance of Byrne and pulsing electronic backdrops of I Should Watch TV. It's a real treat for those that listen in depth making it a more unpredictable listen that could go anywhere.

 And I suppose in some sense, this is where the album goes flat. There are many chances created for many highly anticipated moments that just don't go anywhere. The entire album is based around smoothness and while a smoothness has always existed throughout the past releases of Byrne and Clark, the songs on Love This Giant feel internally smooth as well as externally unlike the previous roller coaster of emotion that the pair have created before.

 I suppose this is what makes the overall experience of the album slightly disappointing for me, because with the highly accomplished work the pair have crafted before, one expected something so beautifully immersive that it would be an experience that once could not walk away from without feeling something new experienced and feel a sort of enlightenment as a result (Man, I have Baroness' Yellow and Green on my mind right now.) and instead I got a set of brass crafted pop songs. While this does serve as the blueprint for some cool pieces of music that do provide a decent amount of depth that we love to hear from these musicians, I can't help but walk away feeling like I'm not getting the full bang for my buck with this album. It would be like going to watch John Petrucci live and then only hear him play AC/DC covers. Love This Giant is essentially two great musicians making a perfectly good album that doesn't display the best of their abilities.

David Byrne & St. Vincent's Love This Giant is out now via Todo Mundo.

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