Love an album that steps right into it.
The self-titled fourth album from St. Vincent, or the girl also known as Annie Clark, picks up right where 2011’s Strange Mercy left off with opener, “Rattlesnake.” It surges ahead with grooves contorting and billowing from all angles. The beats are jacked-up and burbling as Clark takes her clothes off with no one around. Her voice is distressed and manic. She’s sweating, sweating and by the end of this album, so too will you.
With St. Vincent, released this week, Clark is quickly becoming a must-hear artist of any genre. She is joyfully weird with a voice broaching levels of ecstasy and devilment. She is frisky and sassy, but also a true master of the axe. Nearly everything on the album is enveloped in the light fuzz of distortion and it pinches the back of the neck until the drool flows.
On “Birth In Reverse,” the first released song, Clark’s guitar does the Slip ‘N’ Slide. The tempo is locked into a rushing run, like a frantic, cinematic chase sequence through New York City. She’s slipping over the hood of a taxi cab, diving left towards David Byrne’s house, bursting the ambling crowds like flocks of pigeons. Like most of this album, it’s very busy, but never overcrowded.
As a lyricist, Clark trades comfort for mischief, unafraid to bend a sentence around the sound exterior. “Remember the time we went and snorted / That piece of the Berlin Wall that you’d extorted,” she sings, pure of heart, on “Prince Johnny.” Her voice goes off on flight, reflecting on a smitten, but lost and deranged lover.
Since her last album, Clark snuck in a collaboration with Byrne, the full-length Love This Giant. The pairing was perfect. The rhythms of St. Vincent are a direct trickle from the Talking Heads’ reservoir. “Digital Witness,” could have stemmed from those same recording sessions. It’s a solid piece of funk with flatulating horns and a mind-tugging chorus.
“Huey Newton” starts with a space-rock shuffle, then becomes a fractal explosion. Clark sounds like Alison Mosshart fronting Black Sabbath two hits out of the crack pipe. Some of the crustiest, filthiest, wubbiest guitar ever break down the walls between the right and left speakers. The closer, “Severed Cross Fingers,” is as lush as it is triumphant, the perfect lolling end to a bustling modern classic.
Not only is Annie Clark, without any doubt, one of the great guitarists making current music, but she puts her talent to the most creative of uses, never settling to go straight. She loves to throw her sound into total disarray just to pick it back up. She nearly melts the recording studio down on “Bring Me Your Loves” with an onslaught of scuzz.
Her penchant for experimenting with metallic textures and psychotic song structures gives her music a desperate need for return. She pushes the limits of what’s expected in a song and for that her name deserves to roll off the same tongue as Bjork, PJ Harvey, Erykah Badu, Laurie Anderson, the beautifully supernatural women of rock.
On “Digital Witness” Clark sings, “I want all of your mind / gimme all of your mind.” With St. Vincent it’s already in her lap.
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