David Byrne has worked with a minor yet mind-boggling array of great guitarists over the course of his near-40 years in pop music, from Jerry Harrison to Arto Lindsay to Barry Burns of Mogwai to the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones.
But not since he and Adrian Belew traded licks during Talking Heads' Remain In Light tour has the awkwardly enigmatic singer/composer collaborated with a more adventurous axe handler than Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent to the kids. After a May 2009 chance meeting at Bjork's memorable one-off collaborative concert with the Dirty Projectors at the Housing Works Bookstore in New York City where someone suggested they venture into a similar partnership with one another, the pair made good on the advice and got together to dream up this surprising golden nugget of an album they are calling Love This Giant.
Byrne and Clark spent the better part of four years working both in the studio (Water Music in Hoboken, NJ, and Patrick Dillett's Studio in New York City, to be exact) and sending tracks to each other via e-mail, these dozen songs this May-November duo came up with is easily the funkiest, most jubliant stuff Byrne has been party to since his savagely underrated 1992 solo outing Uh-Oh, perhaps even Talking Heads' 1988 swan song classic Naked. Though largely crafted by the primary artists themselves, they are joined on several tracks by a big band of session folks, including members of the Dap-Kings, producer John Congleton and Charles Mingus Big Band director Alex Foster and Steve Turre of the Saturday Night Live band to name just a select few. Yet in spite of working with such a massive ensemble, songs like "Who", "I Am An Ape" and "Weekend in the Dust" maintain a tightness and sense of control that keys right in on the winning melodic structures and lyrical themes Byrne and Clark traded across the ethernet.
In fact, if there is only one caveat to Giant, it's that Annie Clark doesn't let loose enough on her guitar. This girl's got chops to make grown men go back to their instructors with tears in their eyes, and it would have been great to hear her rip it up on weirder cuts like "I Should Watch TV" and "Optimist". But hey, perhaps such a wish will be heeded if these two got together again for a follow-up record. And who knows, maybe on their current tour this fall, we might be lucky enough to catch St. Vincent steal Belew's moves if they break out "Crosseyed and Painless" during a set. It could happen.