Collaborative albums are like a game of roulette. If your number hits, you could go Grammy-gonzo like Jay Z and Kanye. Worst-case scenario: You lose it all like Loutallica, and your very public shame lingers indefinitely in used-CD bins and articles like this one. As any inveterate gambler would insist, there's a science to these sweepstakes. And there's good reason to bet on David Byrne and St. Vincent. "Love This Giant," the three-years-in-the-making duet from the Talking Heads frontman and the art-pop chanteuse (née Annie Clark), dropped this week, and the prestigious pair take their very first road test Saturday at the State Theatre in Minneapolis. Separated by gender and 30 years, Byrne and Clark might seem a random tandem, but here are four reasons why the musicians make a winning combo.
1. BOTH STAND ON THE SANE SIDE OF THE AVANT GARDE.
Allowing indulgent tendencies to run wild might have led to a satisfying if predictable flurry of polyrhythms and jagged guitar flares, but instead "Love This Giant" is tethered to horn instrumentation, executed by members of the Dap-Kings and Antibalas. The brass base could've come off kitschy, but it gives the record consistency and a foothold in brawny, uncharted jazz-pop.
2. BOTH ARE ADEPT ARRANGERS.
Clark has her off-kilter grooves, peculiarly catchy guitar tricks and psych-whirl synths, while Byrne has gone from new wavey, funk-rock barrages in Talking Heads to the symphonic opuses on his last solo album. Combining their creativity, oversaturation would be easy. But the porcelain-voiced vixen and the iconic songwriter loosely stitch together multifarious sounds and textures, leaving just enough white space on the hotly anticipated venture.
3. EGOS WERE SHELVED IN FAVOR OF TRUE COLLABORATION.
Byrne could've played the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame card or had music and vocal duties divvied up, as was done with his famous Brian Eno team-ups. Instead, the two volleyed sonic slabs via e-mail for dicing and splicing at will. "It didn't feel precious and it never felt like there was a minefield in the other person that had to be watched for," Clark told Rolling Stone.
4. POTENTIAL FOR AWESOMELY AWKWARD DANCE MOVES.
Byrne, the onetime king of flamboyant limb-flailing, used to uninhibitedly flap around in an oversized suit like Christopher Walken in that Fatboy Slim video. In recent years he's upped the ante with a fleet of interpretive dancers. Though not matching Byrne's "hip to be square" levels, Clark stunned a sold-out First Avenue this year with a robotic reimagination of the moonwalk, somehow gracefully rigid. A generational dance-off seems unlikely, but there's always hope.