Highlights: Prince Johnny, Huey Newton, Digital Witness
God. People just love her, don’t they. But before I get to the merits of St. Vincent’s latest, please take a listen to this. Now listen to this album. Now tell me what you think.
Twisted pop music. If it’s not genuine, it might sound like you’re trying too hard. You pull your socks up, way up, and they snap. It’s not pretty. “Rattlesnake”, the opening song here, clanks and clatters and then suddenly it’s over. Excuse me? Where’s the punchline? Instead, she should have opened the album with the funky post-punk of “Birth In Reverse”. More than anything on St. Vincent, the song proves that the collaboration with David Byrne left a lasting impression on her. Also, “Oh what an ordinary day; take out the garbage, masturbate” is a huge opening line. “Prince Johnny” is the sort of stuff Lana Del Rey would record – if Lana Del Rey was about substance rather than style. “Huey Newton” starts as a haunting ballad with a lovely watery keyboard line and then becomes all noisy and tastefully abrasive.
Unfortunately, Annie Clark isn’t a great songwriter. St. Vincent is a good album, but the lady just doesn’t have that many remarkable songwriting chops. It’s clever, inventive, but you feel the effort. She tries so goddamn hard to make it clever and inventive, and as a listener I feel compromised. After the soulful and surprisingly straightforward “I Prefer Your Love” (‘…to Jesus’), the thing becomes very messy. Good choruses are mixed with go-nowhere verses and desperate attempts at being idiosyncratic. Having said that, “Severed Crossed Fingers” is a great closer.
An impressive, self-consciously smart record, but Christ what a suffocating listen. She won’t give you a chance to breathe, and she won’t give you a single sensation you won’t get from a far superior Kate Bush album. Still, a seven. Some things are for admiration rather than love.