David Byrne & St. Vincent
Love This Giant
We at LxL have been at this for almost a year now. In this past year I have written my fair share of reviews and to be honest, I’m a bit tired of writing just the standard 700+ words all lumped together in a few poorly spelled paragraphs for a review. So for this particular off-kilter duo and their off-kilter album, I’m going to try and mix things up with a bit of an off-kilter review that tracks exactly how I came to develop my opinion for this album.
It was mid-June. The news of the collaboration album had been announced and the single “Who” had been dropped. “Who” was not only a barrage of karate sounds, poppy arrangements, and a funky horn section that’d make James Brown blush (okay the last part was a stretch) but it was collaboration of two artistically poppy musical geniuses’ that both love dramatic and detailed lyrics paired with dramatic and detailed backing music to accompany them. Both are also very Avant-garde in the way they present themselves stylistically and musically.
Additionally David Byrne has a notorious past with collaborating with people he likes including backing vocals for Arcade Fire, two albums with Brian Eno, an album with Fatboy Slim (which features many other artists including St Vincent), the infamous “Knotty Pine” collaboration with Dirty Projectors for the Dark Was the Night charity album, as well as another infamous track “Apartment Wrestling” from David Sitek’s solo project Maximum Balloon … just to name a few. This collaboration seemed to make perfect sense in many ways. Plus it was a male artist that I’d admired for years and a female artist that I not only greatly admired as of recently, but also (at Bonnaroo) had fallen head over heals in love with. Preliminarliy, this album can’t lose in my mind.
First Listen Breakdown:
Track 1: “Who” – Already know and love this song. Firey horns, and a vocal interplay for the ages.
Track 2: “Weekend In The Dust” – A hippity-hop Dust Brothers-ish back beat with still more bass heavy burping horns. No David, but I sense he’s near. Annie ‘s voice sounds breathy but beautiful. So far so good, and the album is garnering an extremely high two-songs-in rating.
Track 3: “Dinner For Two” – David is back, Annie is too but only for some light background vocals, and it is very apparent that the bitchin’ horn section is clearly here to stay. Not a show-stopper by any means, but a decent enough track to groove on.
Track 4: “Ice Age” – An intro that melts my heart like butter in a microwave after 13.3 seconds …
The rest of the song picks up with thumping bass heavy beats without ever losing sex-appeal. All while sharing a valuable lesson on global warming – YAY!
Track 5: “I Am An Ape” – Introducing the first moments of sleepiness on the album. The slight momentum pickup at the first verse can’t seem to recover the song, and despite David’s first big attempt at paradoxical and ironic humor, I find myself bored with everything except the vinyl scratching sounds toward the end.
Track 6: “The Forrest Awakes” – St. Vincent comes back to steal the show. A slow rolling dramatic build-up that ends up getting shredded to bits by Annie’s guitar in the last few moments. Hawt!
Track 7: “I Should Watch TV” – Introduction leaves me thinking, “Uh-Oh, David is off his rocker. This song is too over the top isn’t even funn- … what’s this? Spastic fun? A screaming David Byrne? Is this animal collective? Nope there is the title of the album.” Still, not a fan.
Track 8: “Lazarus” – Soft and sexy intro, soft and sexy horns, more sexy vocal interplay … I think I’m all in.
Track 9: “Optimist” – No David in sight. Decent enough track but just realized that I called a cab because the party was over.
Track 10: “Lighting” – Basically ^ditto^ until the breakdown with the fuzzy thickfreakness comes into play. That peaked my interest.
Track 11 – “The One Who Broke Your Heat” – Revival. I feel like dancing again.
Track 12: “Outside of Space & Time” – Snoozer. I want to know who told them to push for twelve songs when ten really seemed like ten was the magic number. Why go out on the lowest note on the album?
Album Cover: Creepy. Just brutal to look at really. Why enhance David’s looks in such a way, only to disfigure Annie Clark’s beautifully pristine face. She is gorgeous. Emphasize that rather than creating something that looks she was beaten halfway to death.
First Listen Recap:
Off first listen, it seemed like a fun album but not necessarily a “go-to”. Quite a lot of dynamic. Annie clearly stole the show, while David’s tracks fell short. Of course feelings change. Thus here are my thoughts after a few days spent with the album.
After We Got to Know Each Other:
After the first two or three listens, I began to realize this album was growing on my faster than an bamboo shoot in a Chinese torture chamber. Where I originally thought that Annie outweighed David in a big way, at the end of the day, I’m not so sure they didn’t come closer to breaking even. Songs like “I Should Watch TV” stuck out as smaller works of genius rather than falling flat as they did before. Even to the extent that David ends up dropping some Walt Whitman lines without sounding pretentious. It’s all around a lot of fun and I am smitten. I think it will do nothing but grow on me as time goes by rather than fade away. I could see myself returning to this album quite a bit.
“Who”, Weekend In The Dust”, “Ice Age”, “I Should Watch TV”, “Lazarus”, “The One Who Broke Your Heart”
“Dinner For Two”, “Optimist”, “Outside of Space & Time”