St. Vincent - St Vincent

by Hiro Master Rating:8 Release Date:2014-02-25

Try to write a review of the music of St Vincent, aka Annie Clark, without using the words 'strange', 'quirky', 'eccentric' or 'experimental' is not an easy task since Clark has been a proud pusher of boundaries since the release of her solo debut album, Marry Me, in 2007. She has also in that time struck up a useful partnership with head Talking Head David Byrne, and if 2012's joint effort Love This Giant wasn't quite what it promised then Clark's self-titled fourth album sets the record straight.

St Vincent is the complete album that Ms Clark has been promising over the past seven years. There have been occasions in her previous work where she has been a little too clever, with songs that sound like they need more work or a slight injection of melody. It is pleasing to report therefore that she has shown more restraint here, yet at the same time produced an album which could only be a St Vincent production. The ingenuity of her arrangements remain but somehow more shape and order is present.

The powerhouse, funky opener 'Rattlesnakes', with its staccato synth-line and breathy vocals by Clark, is an ecstatic start. It's followed by the angular 'Birth in Reverse', not one of the stronger tracks here. However, 'Prince Johnny' is a joy. It is almost a conventional ballad for Clark, infused with brilliant lyrics, not least the observation: "Remember the time we went and snorted/ A piece of the Berlin wall that you'd extorted/ And we'd had such a laugh of it/ Prostrate on my carpet".

From here on the album gets better and better. 'Huey Newton' starts like a slow trip-hop song, only to introduce a nasty monster riff at around three minutes. The brassy single 'Digital Witness' is a Talking Heads-meets-Prince funk accompanied with a brilliant video which updates Fritz Lang's classic silent film Metropolis.

The next song, 'Regret', is very clever, Dirty Projectors-style pop and a delight to the ears. The crunchy rock of 'Psychopath' is hewn from the same cloth as 'Rattlesnakes', while 'Every Tear Disappears' is overshadowed by the album's standout and concluding track, 'Severed Crossed Fingers'. On this, Clark injects black humour into a Bowie-like forlorn tale of love on which she ruefully reflects: "Well, you stole the heart right out my chest/ Changed the words that I know best/ Found myself with crossed fingers in the rubble there"

The great news about St Vincent is that this is by far her most accessible album to date. There has been nothing wrong with her inspired, eclectic music to date, it is just that Annie Clark's fourth album finally completes the picture on the jigsaw box and nearly all the pieces fit perfectly.

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