David Byrne and St Vincent both have so much cultural capital in their own right that it was impossible that this project would not to secure bucketloads of interest from everyone who rolls up their jeans, wears stripes and has a perfect asymmetrical haircut. Given that I’ve spent the last four days getting lost (literally, not romantically) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, home to all of these things, it should come as no surprise that every coffee shop I walk into is blasting a song from the two exceptionally strange singers’ joint project entitled Love This Giant. A phenomenal, twisted piece of alternative pop esoterica, it’s enjoyable not only because of the names behind it and how cool it is that they’re in the studio together, but also because it sounds like real songwriting. You can hear who has done what, but it’s also quite difficult to establish this separation confidently. It’s a band concept rather than two singer-songwriters, and given that the last bands these guys played in were Sufjan Stevens’ and The Talking Heads, you know it’s going to be good enough for any tobacco-rolling, beanie-wearing, effortlessly good looking Bedford Avenue resident.
‘Weekend In The Dust’ busts out straight after ‘Who’, the first track these guys premiered earlier in this year which opens the record and is soaked in horns and probably a tad too jerky for its own good. This one, however, takes a completely different turn. With a swoosh of open hi-hats and an old-school hip-hop beat sequenced into a drum machine that carries across the track, it lays the foundation for something far more funky and soulful. Annie Clark (St Vincent before she enters the phone booth) double tracks her melody in octaves and Byrne sits back and plays with all the instruments to give her breathing space. Because the beat is so solid, he makes up for it by throwing in chord changes in the bridge and a descending line in the chorus that makes his female foil really work for her bread. While Clark’s never been afraid of pushing herself vocally, like Byrne, she usually conjures up an appropriately forward-thinking accompaniment to compliment what she’s doing with her pipes. Within the confines of a traditional structure, these bold moves become amplified; seductive, staccato and confusing. While she pushes and prods at the fabric of the melody, the baritone saxophones and trumpets swoop down for long notes, creating a weird textural mish-mash that really smacks of Speaking in Tongues-era Talking Heads.
When an old artist and a new one team up (think Bobby Womack with Damon Albarn, for instance), the results can often vary. I really believe that the instant absorption of Love This Giant into every goddamn hipster enclave in Williamsburg is a telling sign that Byrne and Clark have created something that is not only hot, but will likely outlast the season, too. Even in that guitar line that Byrne drops in during the middle, which takes the song in another direction again, he proves not only his competence, but an ability to still come up with refreshing new ideas some three decades after he completely altered the course of punk. This is the most original thing I’ve heard in the suburb all week, and I’ve been eavesdropping on almost every single conversation at every bar I’ve been at. If nothing else, that has to count for something, right?
David Byrne & St Vincent – ‘Weekend In The Dust’