St. Vincent Masseduction Loma Vista
As mocked by Annie Clark herself, during the faux press conference trailing this album, much critical energy has been expended examining where St. Vincent’s manifold personas end and Clark’s begins. Having channelled “Judy Garland on barbiturates” for her 2011 album Strange Mercy, the Texan singer-songwriter seemed poised to play herself on 2014’s self-titled breakthrough, only to rapidly recast herself as “near-future cult leader” and deliver “a party record you could play at a funeral.” This fifth St. Vincent album has been billed as Clark’s most transparent to date. It’s certainly her boldest.
Accentuated by visual language rooted in leopard print, PVC and hot pink, Masseduction is thrillingly extrovert, and refreshingly brazen in its portrayal of sex and power. The title track finds Clark listing kinks over glam synth-pop that’s flecked with distorted guitars and multi-tracked backing vocals. Sugarboy careers past in a hyperactive blur of taut, programmed beats, like NIN on uppers, before collapsing in frazzled squiggles, only for Loss Ageless to sashay out of its ashes.
Throughout, Clark and Jack Antonoff’s production is so slick it verges on wipe-clean. But for all its slippery surface bravado, Masseduction also offers a frank exploration of the tension between defiance and vulnerability, hedonism and self-destruction. Pills begins as a wired celebration of drug use – with Clark’s ex-partner Cara Delevingne chiming in during the chorus – before becoming progressively more paranoid, culminating in the warning, “Everyone you love will all go away.” During Young Lover Clark remains blasé as the subject overdoses, and on Smoking Section she contemplates jumping off the roof to “punish” a partner. Equally, when she declares her devotion to a lost lover on New York (“For you darling, I’d do it all again”) you buy it.
And really, who cares whether Masseduction represents the “real” Annie Clark or not; it’s definitely her most convincing performance yet.