Album Review: Masseduction by St. Vincent
Masseduction is an album full of contradictions and contrast. It is an album on which our lyricist, vocalist and guitarist, Annie Clark, is anything but saintly. And for that, it is glorious.
St. Vincent has never shied away from what other lyricists might consider a risk or unsavoury. No subject is taboo, as evidenced by her casual proclamation of ‘take out the garbage, masturbate’ on 'Birth in Reverse', a single from 2014’s St. Vincent. And it is with this attitude that she approaches her latest LP, Masseduction, an analysis of sexuality, fetish, and longing. The album is divided, half of it uncompromisingly saucy, the other filled with regret and pain- although interesting, this is its greatest flaw.
The contrast in the album is most evident in the west coast to east coast transition from tracks ‘Los Ageless’ to ‘New York’. ‘Los Ageless’ is an upbeat, dancey study of exploitation in the California city - from parents forcing their children into acting for profit, to the music industry revering female musicians for their looks rather than ability. After rising tension and a raw, overdriven bridge, this segues into a personal confession from Annie recounting her exploitation of her own relationship - perhaps about a lover, perhaps about the city - and its twisted outcome. 'New York', in contrast, is a true love song- the complete package of a ballad- featuring piano harmony, swelling strings and lamenting lyrics dedicated to a lost relationship.
The dichotomy between these 2 tracks is representative of the rest of the album - half of the tracks run at blistering pace to a groovy beat, where Annie’s guitar cameos with beautiful fuzz laden licks. The other half is slow and mourning, with the guitar conceding defeat to the soft keys and strings. At times this transition is handled deftly - like that from ‘Los Ageless’ to ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’. At others, it is jarring, and this makes the musical disconnect between the album’s two sides all too clear. Despite this, the first 5 tracks are an excellent string - sustaining the momentum generated over the opener's slow build. The second half also has its highlights - the sensual guitar lines and subdued drums of ‘Saviour’ for example. However, the speed generated early in the album is shed rapidly, leaving the listener with an utterly mixed bag.