From start to finish, MASSEDUCTION is an aural treat. It’s one of those rare albums that comes along once every couple of years that makes you stop dead in your tracks, hanging on every note. It’s a reminder that pop music can be intelligent, witty and fucking funny if we would only stop turning our noses up at it and just pay it some attention for once.
MASSEDUCTION is certainly St. Vincent’s most personal album, and yet she counterpoints this with the unmistakable Annie Clark humour that will bite you on the arse if you’re not paying close enough attention. In a Facebook live stream, Clark emphatically made the point that, “the record is about love, at its best and at its core,” emphasising that love is “literally the only point” of MASSEDUCTION. With that in mind, ‘New York’, the lead single from the album, will make your heart ache. Stripped of clever imagery and concepts, Clark bleeds into this song, making you feel every single breath as if it was your own. ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’ sees the return of Prince Johnny from her self-titled album, but this time, Clark allows her real self to blur into her stage persona with the lyrics, “Annie, how could you do this to me?”
All of this is counteracted with a healthy dose of satire so that however close we get to unveiling some of her mysteries, we’ll never really know who St. Vincent is. In the run-up to releasing MASSEDUCTION, Clark ran a series of promo videos on her Instagram that parodied the formalities of interviews, revealing all their artifices with her stinging quick wit. This shows in songs like ‘Pills’ and ‘Los Ageless’, where she takes the conventions of the world surrounding her and flips them on their head, showing them for what they really are.
Every song is different. Never has the phrase “all killer, no filler” been more appropriate. Clark is innovative and exciting; the whole album nods to glam rock, but nowhere is this more apparent than ‘Sugarboy’. The song could not be more indebted to Bowie if Clark had daubed it with lightning bolts: the backing vocals at the chorus smack of ‘Boys Keep Swinging’, and Clark’s pitch-bent voice at the end is so reminiscent of ‘The Bewlay Brothers’. That’s not to say that Clark imitates, but quite the opposite. She nods to her inspirations and uses their sound like a piece of origami paper, taking the original material and quickly turning it into something new.
Some would accuse St Vincent of abandoning her indie roots and using pop to gain mass appeal. Those people would be missing the point. The album is called MASSEDUCTION, so sit back and let yourself be seduced. You never know, you might enjoy it.