REVIEW: St Vincent 'MASSEDUCTION' Album & Tour

REVIEW: St Vincent 'MASSEDUCTION' Album & Tour

You have to applaud Annie Clark for her versatility. Known by her stage name St Vincent, the 35 year old Texan musician recently staged her Fear of the Future tour in Manchester’s 02 Academy, following on from the recent release of her majorly hyped fifth album: Masseduction. And what a seduction the show was.

Clark has a raw stage presence like no other. Her pure ethos is blinding – quite literally through the neon clothing she so frequently styles (and pulls off), her block baby blue guitar she controls with complete ease, and her high-concept branding that makes you feel as though you’re entering the waves of psychedelic dreams. All that was evident as soon as she stepped on stage – a single soul for what ended up being half of her set. Yet that didn’t stop her from screaming at you. Her stage set amplified that – a wavy, purple blotted face encompassed the curtain backdrop that pulsed behind a voice dripping with intensity. If anything, her singularity was an asset to an album of which, possibly for the first time in her history of records, debuts lyrics that are fully direct and unfiltered.    

There’s no sense of facade within MASSEDUCTION. Clark’s previous albums have been soaked in abstractness and satirisation that deems her music animated and fun. But this is partly stripped away to reveal a pure sense of humanity that Clark refuses to shy away from. That fact may be misleading upon hearing her beginning command to ‘hang on me’ in her opening track, but it’s really just a pre-warning for the rollout of emotionally-charged tunes that follow. The loss of love, being under surveillance as a female, finding empowerment through loneliness – they’re all rawly exposed ideas and they’re all submerged in evident experience. You’ve got Los Ageless – a robotically fuelled LA lament exploiting the city of dreams for its loneliness and plasticity. All the while, it’s trippy guitar trope exerts the feeling of Clark being on a high. That same maddening texture can be felt in Pills – projecting a perky and playful nursery rhyme vibe with chilling undertones. It also features backing vocals fromlark’s ex and supermodel-famed Cara Delevingne. With this comes the natural infusion of a heartbroken subject matter, but Clark battles the subject in an art savvy way that rejects the conventional soppy sound state that so many fall into.

And it's this point exactly that makes her debut into the realm of pop far from disappointing. That may also be in part down to the assistance of her new producer Jack Antonoff, but Clark has proven that she’s able to tackle any genre with stylish results. The constant witty lyrics literally say that. Her voice aches that she ‘can’t turn off what turns me on’ as a repetitive motif throughout the album’s title tune: Masseduction. She’s ‘got a crush on tragedy’ in Sugarboy, whilst in Saviour, asserts: ‘honey, I am am not your martyr’. That’s another thing about the album – at surface value, it’s playful pop, but the undertones beneath that deem it a totally power-driven record. That fact is more obvious in the two total techno-stripped tracks: New York and Happy Birthday Johnny – both raw explorations of trauma and loss.

Audiences could feel all of Clark’s versatility as she descended upon Manchester. She exploited the standard space of the 02 Academy, deeming the venue to feel more like a grand theatre through her extravagant performances that left the filled space of almost 2000 in a technicolored trance. It’s rare in a touring concert that we’re greeted with a full-album setlist, but Clark made sure that her audience received everything and more. She sold the set instantly with Marry Me as an opener, followed by a delve into her archive of famed singles including Cruel and Birth in Reverse. Despite the fact that Masseduction was released less than a week earlier, she performed it all from beginning to end in the second half of her set. Following on from the performance of her previously arch-driven tracks, the new album was a somewhat lighter release, yet was still evidently laced with intellectualism. ‘How can anybody have you and lose you and not lose their minds, too?’ she asked in Loss Ageless. The response? An guitar riff as eclectic as the maddening minds of the crowd observing her. All present in the venue had one thing in common: a crave for the answer to her effectively rhetorical question. Her tour may be entitled A Fear of the Future, but if Clark is the seductress leading us into it, we have little to worry about – for her intellectual-pop album affirms her undeniable sense of power and charm.

MASSEDUCTION is out now

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