REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha
St. Vincent unleashes yet another minor masterpiece, her 5th in a row
If Bjork didn't take herself so seriously she could make an album as fun as Annie Clark’s glorious 5th (and best) album.
St. Vincent - St. Vincent (OUT NOW via Caroline International)
Annie Clark has always been a contrarian character; her records stacked full of potential pop hits that she chooses to bury under waves of distortion and electronic quirks. These sheets of dynamism are part of what makes her such an important artist though and if the hype-machine is to be believed (though frankly I wouldn't trust it as far as I could throw it), this latest self-titled record will finally see the endlessly inventive and supernaturally talented Miss Clark finally achieve the mainstream kudos she deserves.
The opening synth-pop dirge of 'Rattlesnake' is indicative of Clark's sinister side, an intense storm of scattershot electro-pop with its toes in everything from avant-garde rock to twisted pop and IDM. Against all odds though it manages to be almost deceptively catchy, with an insistent chorus hook that's chased by what sounds like a PVC ghost (you'll understand what I mean when you hear it, trust me).
On the equally hook-laden 'Birth in Reverse' she equates taking out the garbage with masturbation with such ambivalence it's almost frightening over a lurching beat and a melody which wouldn't sound out of place on an Abba record. Instrumentally though it's like a fuzzy early Pavement number being remixed by le Tigre. That's the duality of this album and Clark as an artist though, and it's what makes it (and her) so very special. 'Regret' pulls a similar trick, only does so with the help of some of the most bizarre and interesting guitar effects I've heard on record since the last Nine Inch Nails record.
The album's most striking songs however are those which locate a middle ground between dark intensity and wounded vulnerability. 'Prince Johnny' for example might just be my 'new favourite St. Vincent song'; an emotionally bruised lament bruised by aggression in the form of relentless, reverb soaked percussion, a yearning choir and a general air of menace and although 'I Prefer Your Love' might seem like a rather straight-forward trip-hop ballad on the surface, but the lyrics suggest a hidden bleak heart.
Best of all however might be the final 'Severed Cross Fingers', which completely ditches the 'melancholy closer' convention for a twisted torch song that feels like a final triumphant declaration of independence from an album that spends almost its entire running time wrapped up in the affairs and problems of others.
Ultimately, St. Vincent the performer and St. Vincent the album really know how to induce a surprising left turn, and do so without loosing their footing even once. It's a bold, endlessly inventive and yet incredibly immediate record that (if there is any justice left in the world) make St. Vincent into a global superstar. And if not, as long as she keeps tuning up albums like this, the wider world's loss is music's gain!