David Byrne & St. Vincent's "Who"
Expect the unexpected of David Byrne, and he will deliver.
His improbable new collaboration with St. Vincent — aka Annie Clark — yields something few might have seen coming: Horns. Lots of horns, relentlessly honking and blasting away on nearly every track of “Love This Giant,” adding an air of free jazz here, funk there.
It’s a whimsically festive touch, one that suits this playful joint endeavor by Byrne and Clark.
Still, though they share songwriting credits on most tracks, “Love This Giant” seems more Byrne than Clark, perhaps because his offbeat style and distinctive voice are simply more recognizable than that of the indie upstart. Also, the release has the feel of cut-and-paste collaboration, individual work stitched together despite stylistic clashes.
Nevertheless, “Love This Giant” has some consistency, whether she’s singing in her dulcet voice in the Bacharach-y ballad “Optimist” and tackling the histrionics of “The Forest Awakes” or he’s pitching stilted lines on “I Should Watch TV” and crooning through “Outside of Space & Time.” The music is unified by typically meaty, electronic rhythms plus brassy nuance and adventurous (and often impenetrable) lyrics.
Byrne and Clark are most successful on the rare tracks they trade lead vocals, going back and forth on the chunky-beat-based “Who” and “Lazarus.”
There are other highlights, as Clark breezes across the sweeping swells of “Weekend in the Dust” and Byrne churns through the percolating “Dinner for Two,” but “Love This Giant” ultimately has limited appeal because despite the unconventional artistry invested by the duo, the quirkiness comes at the cost of cohesion. What’s more, the affected kitsch gets redundant, and several later tracks sound overlong, clunky and dull.
In the end, “Love This Giant” eventually trades refreshing surprise for desperate eccentricity, and it doesn’t invite repeated listens.
Rating: 3 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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