Warbling strings drench throughout St Vincent, invoking memories, demented, of Disney scores, iconoclastic and nostalgic. Annie Clark ascends to the throne, more Maleficent than princess fare, a ruler both wicked and wry. Fools aren’t suffered lightly. Remnants of the Berlin Wall snorted in offhand anecdote. Naked, bolting through a forest, she outruns rattlesnakes. TVs thrown out the window. Rockstar 101 behaviour, served as a directive to the listener. “I prefer your love / To Jesus”. Clichéd pop superstar folly, repeated through a mystic, down-tempo haze, sold with hypnotic lushness. St Vincent is uninhibited, doing it all. More importantly, doing it on St Vincent’s terms.
The tremolo orchestral backing and bursts of obliterated guitar tone were present on Strange Mercy, the stuttering horns a hallmark of David Byrne collaboration Love This Giant, all of which are honed to precision on St Vincent, imbued with the added percussive assistance of Dap-King Hoer Steinweiss. The venom of interim single Krokodil leaves its residual acid on the hooks and jabs of Birth In Reverse. The giddy skittishness of Bring Me Your Loves disorientates as Annie’s vocals shout through with megaphone coarseness, lovelessly demanding “Bring me your loves”.
Annie Clark didn’t just hold her own alongside David Byrne on record and on stage, she outshone at times, belying any perceived gravitas of legacy. Stoic beauty confluences with brash, unhinged guitar noodling and gritty effects. St Vincent carries that through, along with a fetish for the mundane. The protagonist within Birth In Reverse has a wank after taking out the garbage. “Oh what an ordinary day”. It’s candour as cool.
Severed Crossed Fingers could well function as a eulogy for the record industry, a ballad encroaching Randy Newman levels of tongue-in-cheek – “Spitting our guts over gears / Draining our spleen over years”. Regardless of possible music industry machinations subtext, there’s heart in its genuine hopefulness.
Bleakness is but a plaything for St Vincent, irony both a weapon and distraction. That’s the point, isn’t it?
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
Key Track: Birth In Reverse
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