Superstar oddball musical pairings often promise amazing results that completely fail to deliver. One part of the duo is too over zealous while the other is more reticent, the music that they’ve created together doesn’t seem to fit or perhaps they’re just not comfortable sharing the limelight with someone other than their original band. This could not be further from the truth in the case of David Byrne and Annie Clark (St Vincent), whose live show – which I saw on Thursday night – benefited by the simple fact that they are both equally as weird. The pair’s excellent ‘Love This Giant’ was a sonic head trip when it came out last year (I wrote about it here) full of brash brass and close, tense harmonies. Both of those were magnified in the flesh, as Byrne, the biggest small man in the room, hit his notes with the urgency of someone a third his age, jerking his long limbs wherever they happened to stray. This was perhaps no better demonstrated than in his performance of a song he featured on in 2002, a tune that everyone sort of knows but really can’t put their finger on without the help of good old Google. And having Annie Clark there to back him up just made it even better.
If you were big on proper club music at the turn of the century – which, as anyone who has seen our odes to ‘Baby Got Back’ and Wheatus, will know that we were not – X-Press 2 were apparently a pretty big deal. Pushing out the sort of classic, Baeleric (my God, that word still sounds ridiculous) grooves that counteracted all the jungle and 2-step that was threatening to eat pop alive, groups like this recalled the heyday of Hacienda when songs could go for five minutes before you even hit the 12″ version and nobody would have a problem with it because it was part of a set that went for 12 hours. I knew this song from the deep recesses of my mind, but had no idea that Byrne, a keen collaborator with pretty much anyone with talent who he sees at a live show, was the voice. It’s practically absurd; an entire song dedicated to being sedentary, and not in the ‘Oh great I can just have loads of sex with my excellent half-Spanish girlfriend’ lazy as was evidenced by the Bruno Mars song of the same name, but the good old, rainy Sunday, cup of tea and a cigarette lazy that only the British know how to do properly. It’s unfortunate that the songwriting is actually quite well structured and the melody is top-notch, because having a song called ‘Lazy’ that was lazily written really would be too good. Ah well.
X-Press 2 were indeed only two but renowned for being somewhat of an Avalanches-esque octopus, regularly hitting clubs with up to twelve decks and three DJs at a time. Somehow they managed to synthesise that all into a very normal kind of club track that had that twist of oddness that only a former Talking Head can deliver. Watching him dance, scarecrow-like as he led an eight-piece brass section and the divine Ms Vincent through the verses of this one was a real delight. But ultimately it’s about the endearing timbre of his voice, which seems to have only grown with age, that transformed this song from a good idea into a great one. Listening back to it now, there’s nobody who would fit the goofy slide of the melody in the chorus but Byrne, yet it’s a choice that was no doubt an inspired rather than an obvious one. And his psuedo-rapping in the verses just adds the cherry on top; a full exposition of weird that is somehow interminably rad anyway. Teach us your secrets, David. We need to learn how to grow old without losing our cool.
X-Press 2 ft. David Byrne – ‘Lazy’