Why other albums tend not to matter now…
It’s been over two weeks now since I’ve been listening to this album over and over and over again. And to be frank, I’ve haven’t felt like this since a teenager where album tracklistings would be on repeat with no reservation. It draws comparison to watching reruns of Simpsons episodes in that you’re always bound to find something new in something you’ve seen and heard numerous times. Another comparison is watching True Detective and knowing you will never watch television the same way again.
While it would be easy and safe to compare the musician St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) to such equivalents as Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, and Madonna, there are much better male counterparts that can’t be ignored (David Bowie, T. Rex, RZA, and Jimmy Page just to name a few). More obviously, her previous work with David Byrne has built St. Vincent into an artist who manifests the understanding of How Music Works. Whenever an artist finds a way to embody the pure elements of punk and funk, I pay full attention.
The lead track “Rattlesnake” instantly draws you in with its power. Later, as a hip-hop favoritist, the title alone of “Huey Newton” already draws allusion to a PE-basehead era; the beat alone is an eerie reminder of The Bomb Squad intrinsics that made Public Enemy a defining sound. Add that with a Black Sabbath / N.I.B. breakdown, and for a moment, you think you were at a metal concert.
While St. Vincent has a musically range that can be girlishly cute (“Psychopath”) or reverentially matriarchal (“I Prefer Your Love”), it’s the guitar-riffs throughout the album catch you like the first time you really hear Led Zeppelin (“Birth In Reverse”). Somehow, St. Vincent found a way to take the 90s grunge feedback and trip-hop bass-lines that encompass the decadence that makes you wanna die and transform them into something transcendent, joyous, and future-seeking. This is proof you don’t have to be a bitch to put together some bitchin’ music.
To be fair, I can honesty hear the dedication to track order in the album. No part feels too hard, there’s the right balance with the ebb and flow evenly spaced, and no composition sounds repetitiously boring; those moments you expect repetition end up unique in their own right. With so much attention to detail, there is no wonder I still remain curious with every listen.
So while the likes of Katy Perry, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga fight for the title of pop diva, Annie Clark has instantly transformed St. Vincent into a rock goddess. And where we have an industry that forces artists to sound a certain way to garner attention, St. Vincent has found a way to become a top-tier artist by finding a way to sound every certain way possible while still maintaining some sense of popular accessibility. There rarely comes an album where the music finds that sweet spot in commemorating the past, present, and future. Truly, we have that here.