The first thing you hear on this rather extraordinary record is the horns. They are everywhere. I’m not talking about a few blasts here and there; I’m talking about a huge horn section that serves as the main accompaniment to these two inventive musicians. David Byrne has collaborated with others before, most notably Brian Eno, but on Love This Giant, he and St. Vincent (Annie Clark) really mix it up, resulting in a record that is unique among the work of either artist.
David Byrne and Annie Clark have been working on this little gem for about three years. It seems to be a truly collaborative affair with 10 of the 12 songs written by both of them and with each taking turns on lead vocals, guitar and various other instruments. In addition to the multitude of horn players, the most important additional musician seems to be John Congleton who programmed the drum sounds. Congleton’s drums provide a bracing counterpoint to the horns arrangements and really help these tracks take off.
As far as the songs go, Talking Heads fans will recognise some of Byrne’s long-running themes. The opening track, Who, reminds me a bit of Who Is It? from Talking Heads ’77. Later, Byrne explains on I Should Watch TV that he, “Wants to know what folks are thinking, wants to understand the country I live in”. Yes, he’s still the awkward outsider, trying to, if not fit in, then at least not stick out.
As one might expect, the songs often sound like art projects, they have that nervous, paranoid feel that Byrne has made a career out of, but, and perhaps this is because of the presence of those omnipresent horns, the tracks are full of joy. No matter how discordant and complex things become, there is a sense of fun that permeates throughout the album.
Annie Clark’s cool, seductive voice works as a nice alternative to Byrne’s more stilted singing. It’s a shame she doesn’t get to play more guitar on the record as she proved to be a brilliant player at her recent show at the Kings Arms.
As far as pop hooks go, this one is probably a grower, the songs take quite a few unexpected twists and turns. But fortunately the vibe is so inviting (I’ll credit those horns again) that’ll you’ll want to come back to Love This Giant and allow it to reveal its riches.
Click here to listen to I Should Watch TV from Love This Giant: