David Byrne exclaims, “Behold and love this giant” on the fidgety track I Should Watch TV from his recent collaboration with art-rock queen St. Vincent (Annie Clark). Alluding to the line from Walt Whitman’s poem Song of Myself – ‘I behold the picturesque giant and love him’ – Byrne’s lyric embodies the ethos of Love This Giant – embrace that which is awkward and unusual.
Both Clark and Byrne have enjoyed left-of-centre musical careers, and their eccentricities blend terrifically well on this record. Byrne, former Talking Heads’ frontman, provides a distinct and powerful elegance. Clark brings a mastery of the melodic, as well as some naive art-pop sensibilities. However, Love This Giant doesn’t feel like it belongs to either of them; the abundance of brass throughout the album adds warmth, and creates an interesting artistic middle-ground.
It is in this middle-ground that the duo seem to feed off eachother. Lead single, Who, is a gritty brass-led track with a certain vibrancy. The alternating vocal sections are fluid, and add to the overall dynamics. A sense of mystery is formed through lyrics like ‘Who walks this dusty road? / Who always pulls their weight / Who’s this inside of me?’. This mystery gives way to a groove-centred hybrid of funk and big-band, seen in full affect on Weekend in the Dust and The One Who Broke Your Heart. The latter is an uplifting track taking influence from world music, and features both Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra and The Dap-Kings.
It’s not all decadence, however. There is an addictive awkwardness that encompasses the record. It is highly evident on I Am an Ape, as well as on The Forest Awakes, in which Clark states “The song is a road / A road is a face / A face is a time / And a time is a place” over a line of staggered horns. This oddness is derived from a combination of eccentric lyricism and quirky instrumentation; Byrne and Clark seem to have enjoyed a great deal of creative freedom.
Love This Giant possesses a contagious energy: guitars impersonate brass instruments; lyrics evoke magical imagery; layers of instruments present glimpses of the cinematic; Clark and Byrne seem free and unrestrained. There is an underlying commentary, however: a commentary on the human race. It seems the duo have sought to position themselves from a vantage point in order to comment on the awkward and unusual nature of humanity. On the album’s final track, they rightfully claim to have witnessed a “cosmic saga” from a position that is somewhere “outside of space and time”. This position is both strangely refreshing and perfectly awkward.