‘Love This Giant’ a regression for Clark
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 23:09
One of the truly remarkable things about the collaboration between Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and David Byrne (previously of the new-wave band, the Talking Heads) is the symmetry that is played with the album “Love This Giant.” The first three songs of the album are well-constructed examples of the unified sound that the two have created. Once we get to the song “Ice Age,” we start to see just how well in the middle the two musicians met on the first three tracks. On “Ice Age,” the instrumentation is very much in the style of David Byrne while Annie Clark’s voice elegantly moves through the heavy-but-not-overwhelming experimental instrumentation. The following song, “I Am an Ape,” is a trade-off from the previous track with the voice of David Byrne and the instruments of Annie Clark. However, on this track we get a glimpse of another layer of the relationship displayed on this album. The “hairy beast” mentioned in the chorus seems to evoke ties to the story of “The Beauty and the Beast.” The line “you should not trespass in this garden” is another allusion to the tale. These references also shed light onto the album cover in which Annie Clark has some bone deformity and David Byrne has a prominent cleft in his chin. It also blurs the distinction as to who is the beauty and who is the beast because if you listen to “I Am an Ape,” it is both David Byrne and Annie Clark who confess they are a “hairy beast.” This is not the first time that Annie Clark has explored Disney-inspired whimsical themes, as she did in her debut LP “Actor.” There, she had the same dynamic in her music as there is on this record. The elements on “Actor” were fanciful and evoked memories of watching Cinderella as a child. That album’s schizo-driven guitar riffs and solos and insecure worrisome lyrics were revisited on the opening track of “Love This Giant.”
It is for reasons like this that I feel this album is a regression in sound for St. Vincent and makes the evolved elegance of “Strange Mercy” a moot point. However, hope is regained on the track “Lightning.” In this piece there are elements that are native to “Strange Mercy” such as a sultry and paced percussion. It is a nod to the listener that she is aware of her regression in sound for the sake of the album, as the Disney aesthetic applies more cohesively to both the subject matter and David Byrne’s own part in the collaboration.