David Byrne has reappeared with fellow semi-weirdo St. Vincent on “Love This Giant”. The role of the semi-weirdo is a tricky spot to play in pop, and he has done it deftly for a while now, as has Madam Vincent. The weirdness here is the horns. For whatever the reason the principals have decided to invite wind instrument luminaries and make the horn section the backbone. Except it isn’t just a horn section and it isn’t the backbone you’re thinking of.
I love hooks. And horns are great at hooks. I read “horn section” and I think Tower of Power or James Brown or big band Jazz. This is not what Byrne and Vincent have wrought. The horns are the sound of the record not just the accent of record. Some might think this gives the horns more power. This is not true. Pop music usually relies on the guitar or keyboard for the background middle clamor upon which they perch the vocals. Anyone who has ever played French Horn knows the ability of the wind instruments to slouch comfortably into the middle as the brass instruments on this record do.
That is not an insult to the players on this record. The instruments are impeccably played. I can get awful ornery over bad technique (especially bad trumpet technique) and I hear nothing but excellence here. But I wonder if maybe horns weren’t meant to be the underlying rumble to pop. In pop, horns are meant to kick your ass. The same way distorted electric guitar does. Nothing here kicks my ass. And if as much work and talent goes into an album as went into this one, I want to feel kicked.
Don’t misunderstand me. This is a good record. Something you should get (I love Ms. Vincent’s 90’s R&B throwback vocals). But the brass is very subtle. Overly subtle. Luckily the subtlety of the horns reminds you just how great that sound can be. Like how a Segovia record makes me throw on Slayer. Now I’m gonna go listen to Tower of Power.
Tags: a.d. terbush, david byrne, David Byrne and St. Vincent, David Byrne and St. Vincent - Love This Giant album review, David Byrne and St. Vincent - Love This Giant review, Reviews, St. Vincent