Even if I hated the music of Annie Erin Clark, I think I would find some way to like it. Not only does she take her performance name – St Vincent – from the hospital where Dylan Thomas died in 1953 (“Where poetry comes to die,” she says – poetically) but she dropped out of the esteemed Berklee College of Music upon the realisation that “at some point you have to… forget everything that you learned in order to actually start making music.” But it’s a good thing I like her music – literate, dreamy, alienly original and archly arty – very much.

David Byrne… well, I have wanted to have his babies ever since I heard Talking Heads ’77 – in 1977. A musician who even out-eggheaded Brian Eno, Byrne has always gone for the left of field, the multi-layered joke and the coolly artistic (even if it is often wrapped in humid NYC salsa or scratchy funk).

My excitement at seeing these two bright sparks come together for the recent release – Love This Giant – was tempered with a little trepidation: would Byrne and Clark cancel each other out? Would their cerebral tendencies produce an impenetrable code of clever-clever – signals emanating from a brain-box that none of us dummies would get?

Silly me. Upon listening to Love This Giant I realised that, yes, they are smart cookies but both have always made music for people. St Vincent’s sly grooves and pop hooks, Byrne’s dips into the hothouse of ‘world’-music. And Love This Giant is made for people.

Talking Head’s last album, 1988’s Naked, was filled with Latin flavours – salsa, mambo, latin funk – and the thudding mambo of Love This Giant’s opener, ‘Who’, is the mission statement. Rich with a phat horn section and ass-whipping drums, its joyful street-parade strut sets the template for what is to come. “Who’ll be my Valentine? Who’ll lift this heavy load?/Who’ll share this taxicab? Who wants to climb aboard?”

Beautiful organic flavours abound – the sound of real instruments, whether those baritone-sax driven horn blasts (‘Weekend In the Dust’) or Salvation Army Brass Band brass choir (the intro to ‘I Am An Ape’). St Vincent herself sounds transported on the compassionate ‘Ice Age’, after a drifting first section, when the horns pick up steam – “Oh diamond, it’s such a shame/To see you this way, freezing it out/Your own little ice age.” An icier, synth driven, background might not have brought out the rise in the song as full-bloodedly.

The horn charts were written by Tony Finno and were so complete by the time Clark and Byrne got around to incorporating them in the music, Byrne says “Often when we could, we didn’t use any bass. The tuba or the baritone sax would do the job of the bass and Annie and I would play guitar. I was more the rhythm guitar guy. And she was the incredible lead guitarist.” (And she is).

The burnished-brass fruit of a three-year gestation/circling between two mutually appreciative artists (what a pleasure to use that word accurately for a change) – after Byrne and Clark were brought together for a 2009 charity performance – Love This Giant is, if the god of NYC bohemia is smiling upon us, the beginning of more from these two. I truly hope so.

Read (lots) more at http://lovethisgiant.com/

Published September 2012 on theorangepress.net


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