Brass Tactics EP, by David Byrne & St. Vincent

38-brasstactics

Released May 28, 2013

18 min, 11 sec

Brass Tactics is the very definition of a promotional EP. Released for free in support of the Love This Giant tour, the EP is practically a template for releases of this nature: a new track, two remixes, and two live tracks from the tour.

It’s not bad, by any means. But it’s not necessarily exciting, either. It has the feel of something thrown together as a booster pack of sorts, and it’s interesting that David Byrne and St. Vincent chose this to be, essentially, their swan song.

“Cissus” is a strong but slow track, primarily built around Annie Clark’s voice, with long, drawn out notes providing the backdrop. It has the same dreamy, psychadelic feel as many of the songs on Love This Giant, making about as much sense lyrically as those.

The two remixes, unfortunately, are of a much lower caliber. “I Should Watch TV” is a remix that does nothing more than swap the beat out for something different but similar enough that the song doesn’t feel all that different. “Lightning” is even more boring; the song is almost exactly the same, just sped up with extra sounds added all over the place. Utterly throwaway and unnecessary.

The live tracks, interestingly, feel the most interesting, with the catalogues of St. Vincent and David Byrne (through Talking Heads) represented with one track each. “Marrow” retains its sinister edge, with the horn sections adding color and additional sharpness all throughout the track, replacing most of the song’s original instrumentation. Interestingly, the song already features horn instruments, in a sampled form; these are replicated with the live horns on the tour. Byrne provides only backing vocals for this song, as Clark steps up to the center, singing with a stronger, more full voice than on the track’s studio version.

“Road to Nowhere” features synthesized horns as well, but this is a characteristic of every instrument used in the studio version. As expected, the live version on Brass Tactics replaces every single instrument (excluding percussion) with a set of horn riffs that emulate the original synth lines as faithfully as possible. The song’s a cappella intro also features long, sustained notes underneath it in its live version. Clark provides the song’s female vocals, singing in time with Byrne for the majority of the song. Byrne’s vocals are more level than the studio version, but the band also elongates certain sections of the song, the ending notes in particular. Both of these live tracks serve as faithful, but creative, renditions of the original studio versions, with the new instrumentation the Love This Giant tour afforded the duo for their respective back catalogues.

However, two live tracks doesn’t save an album, nor does making it free (though it does eliminate the barrier of entry). In contrast to the creativity and general worthwhile nature of Love This Giant, Brass Tactics is inessential and boring in what it does. It’s a shame that the creative partnership between Byrne and St. Vincent ended on this note.

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