Supergroups and collaborations between your favourite artists seldom end well, unless there is a certain shared wavelength or equal sense of where the project should potentially go…
For every Queen and David Bowie, there’s a Lou Reed and Metallica (shudders)…
So, when it was announced that Talking Heads frontman David Byrne was set to release an album with St Vincent’s frontwoman Annie Clark, there was a certain shiver borne of equal parts trepidation and thrill…
Fortunately, this is a collaboration that is more Under Pressure than Dancing In The Street, and a metric tonne more fun than it has really any right to be.
Bringing the unique perspectives and musical styles that created More Songs About Buildings And Food and Strange Mercy, and adding a 26-piece brass band, Byrne and Clark are clearly bouncing beachball-sized ideas around and making something uniquely fresh and different.
From a series of meetings in New York, the duo collaborated at distance, sending the drum loops and melodies back and forth and moulding at first a set of four tracks, which evolved into eight before emerging as the fully-fledged record that was released last week.
Love The Giant is the fruit of their collaboration, and features 12 songs that feature the quirks and familiar hooks that mark out St Vincent — Clark’s sweet and sharp croon — and David Byrne — his deadpan drawl and shimmering acoustic guitar.
Layered and blended with these ingredients are an array of brass instrumentation and drum patterns, creating something simultaneously familiar and unique for this project.
Songs like Who and Optimist are perfect encapsulations of the bounce and fun at play — Byrne and Clark are like two sides of the same coin that spins inside the songs, sometimes in unison, sometimes apart, but always in pursuit of an oddly funky and complementary whole.
There’s an organic feel to the music and lyrics that brings to mind what Talking Heads were driving for on their last record, Naked, where jungles and shopping malls came together in the lyrics and funk roamed the earth.
Some examples of the kinds of bliss that Byrne and Clark are bringing to the travelling version of Love This Giant can be seen on YouTube, especially the footage captured in Minneapolis recently that shows brassy versions of Heads classic Burning Down The House as well as St Vincent’s Cruel, the great lead track from their 2011 release, Strange Mercy.
I also need to point anyone with any kind of interest in music to David Byrne’s new book, How Music Works – it’s a fascinating look into the mechanics of how music is shaped by its time and place, and he explains accessibly and clearly how the advent of recording technology in the 20th century forever changed our relationship to playing, performing, and listening to music.