‘Love This Giant’ proves high-profile collaborations can be successful

The name Lulu shall forever evoke painful emotions from music fans. The 2011 collaboration between legendary singer-songwriter Lou Reed and vastly influential metal band Metallica was not only one of the worst collaborations of all time, it was one of the worst albums of all time. With their new album Love This Giant , Talking Heads mastermind David Byrne and indie rock goddess St. Vincent (AKA Annie Clark) have struck a level of success that, while not the antithesis of Lulu , is perhaps closer to what Loutallica was aiming for. It’s difficult to pick where to start with Love This Giant . Byrne’s experience and perpetual success, along with Clark’s musical upbringing with The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, plus the natural talent of both, creates a minefield of musical uniqueness. That uniqueness shines through in the quirky, distinctive musical sensibilities that the pair create. Plucky new-wave synths pound the background of “I Should Watch TV,” lush keyboards give way to energetic beats in “Ice Age,” and horns provide the primary melodies in most songs, including opener “Who,” where Clark’s deceptively intricate guitar fingerpicking rings throughout. Although the musicality on Love That Giant can become monotonous (the brass elements are great, but they sometimes seem forced and overpowering), the vocal shifts within songs keep things fresh. Both have recognizable voices, and their different qualities work well together. Byrne’s voice is often alien-sounding, and Clark’s is almost always otherworldly. While the two adjectives shouldn’t be confused, they make for a refreshing, interesting, sonically delightful contrast. It also helps that both Byrne and Clark are seasoned songwriters with oddly literate lyrical styles. In “Who,” Byrne poses philosophical questions – “Who’ll be my valentine? Who’ll lift this heavy load? Who’ll share this taxi cab? Who wants to climb aboard?” – to which Clark responds, “Who is an honest man?” On “Ice Age,” Clark might be reflecting on untapped potential or relationship troubles, crooning “Oh diamond, it’s such a shame to see you this way, freezing it out, your own little ice age”—one of the album’s lyrical gems. Unfortunately, the quality steadily drops off near the end of Love This Giant : “Lightning” and “The One Who Broke Your Heart” are utterly forgettable, “Lazarus” and “Optimist” are nothing special, and the album really ends on a low note with the Byrne-penned “Outside of Space & Time,” a space ballad (yes, really) that wouldn’t sound out of place playing as Zapp Brannigan flies off in his spaceship at the end of an episode of Futurama . The biggest disappointment about Love This Giant is that it just isn’t as good as it could be. Here are two of the great musical minds of the past 50 years, and although there are some good tracks, it’s certainly not the best output from either. Simply put, it can’t begin to rival the next freshest thing we have from either, that being St. Vincent’s utterly incredible 2011 album Strange Mercy . That said, Love This Giant does indeed have some good tracks. “Who,” “Ice Age,” “I Should Watch TV,” and “Weekend In the Dust” stand out, and if you can forget about the duds and move past the occasional monotony, it’s actually a pretty good collection of songs. Well, better than Lulu , at least. Overall Rating: 7/10