In regards to yesterday’s post, although superficially there are similarities, it might rather be coincidences. St Vincent and her guitar theatrics, Anna Calvi and her guitar explosions, both of them recording with David Byrne, both of fine voice but actually rather different, different sides of the pond, different, except that they add a certain artistic slant to everything they do, theatrical make up, clothes, and drama in the music. Me, I love it, I love both of them, I interviewed Anna Calvi when I saw her in Stockholm, I have seen St. Vincent live three times once with Byrne. I saw a great Byrne live show once too – I also love Tom Verlaine, I played on one of his records (uncredited) and having seen Television’s second outing and Verlaine live solo many times, I wonder at the power of image and how so many people need to be sold the idea rather than going and digging it up, lifting up the log, seeing what fascinating creatures are crawling around underneath. Verlaine is fabulously successful when compared to Hawaiian hippies, These Trails, one of the best albums I’ve heard in recent times and what about contemporary acts, Thus Owls or Snowbird? Unknown with little chance of growing beyond their exceptionally small arty fan base.
This track from the successful arty duo of Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and David Byrne, from the Love That Giant LP released in 2012 will either entertain you, intrigue you and have you puzzle at their antics or just scare you away. It should at least make you think about Art groups you haven’t heard or don’t know about – Sparks, The Residents, The legendary Pink Dots, CAN (these bands are hardly obscure). The Byrne/Clark show I saw featured a large entourage of brass players, lighting and set design and two hours of choreography. It’s not R’n’R, or is it? R’n’R doesn’t look like it used to, rebellion isn’t long hair and a Strat. There was a time when electric guitars were scary, now they are like fridges, one in every home, often cold and full of average stuff. Annie Clark seems like an adept guitar player but the audience seems to be roused most by her random discordant playing rather than her skills. That’s because the fridge is never full of surprises, there’s never anything random in there so when you open the door and something large and dark jumps out at you it breaks the monotony, even if it’s not tasty.
Byrne and Clark together seemed like a rather exotic dish, although David Byrne for all his arty exploits attracts a rather mainstream audience. Somehow, he crossed over, the rhythms, the big suit, the hits with Talking Heads, but also the ideas – the voice, collaborating with Eno, the plays, Brazil. But to think that Tom Verlaine with his incredible original guitar skills, his arty voice, his great ideas and his reputation for making one of the greatest R’n’R records ever (Marquee Moon) remains lost in the shadows of the past seems rather unfair. Lucky for some, unlucky for others. Byrne’s image appealed to the kids, the intellectuals, the cat. Clark appeals to the hipsters, all the sexes and the camera. Verlaine is a distant memory, rarely making records anymore, who would pay for them? Who would buy them? Tom Verlaine records sit in the record stores for months/years without being touched – it’s tragic. Even Adventure Television’s second album struggles to sell. Marquee Moon remains the pinnacle and although it is a fantastic record, like Big Star it leaves the shop now and then, whereas The National are constantly selling out.
So what’s the point of this article? Well it’s just illustrating the interesting successful arty types and the interesting unsuccessful arty types. Of course Annie Clark and Anna Calvi are very now, and Television/Tom Verlaine/Richard Lloyd are very then but David Byrne somehow became very then and very now.