It’s instantly apparent that this is far from an amusing vanity project but rather a candid creative dialogue between serious if jovial musicians. Diplomatically sharing arrangement, songwriting and performing duties, it’s a commendable exercise in discretion and artistry. They work naturally well together, blending effortlessly like band mates from an imagined parallel past.
Overall it’s unashamedly theatrical, like a West Side Story for the digital age, mostly in part due to Clark’s unusual but genuinely inspired suggestion to write the entire work as if for a brass ensemble. So take heed, if you don’t dig baritone sax it’s going to be a long haul. Despite these qualities, it never looks backwards, the electronics and time signatures lending it a requisite contemporary edge. Byrne’s vocals throughout are some of the most superlative of his career. Clark veers between (too) kooky and imposingly distinguished, like a pop permeated Joni Mitchell. Nature seems to dominate the lyrics but this is by no stretch a concept album and if anything it’s the city of New York that’s constantly conjured.
It’s expansive, moreish and muscular, artsy and avant-garde. Basically, pretty much what Talking Heads would sound like if they were around right now; intelligent, urbane and instantly catchy. This is quirky, jazzy, smart and sassy, a sophisticated album without an inch of fat. Taut and lean it may be but it has bags of swagger and more than a dash of hot sauce. A peculiar but pitch perfect partnership.
Words by ANNA WILSON