St Vincent: Our forever VBF
The artist might let you in on the dark joke but she’s not letting you in on all of her secrets
Wholly St Vincent: her heartaches, misgivings, desires, fetishes and crushing blows of devastation are delivered to us in songs.
Last October, Irish audiences got a real whoosh of St Vincent. On October 13th, 2017, she dropped her fifth studio album, Masseduction, which our reviewer Tony Clayton-Lea gave four stars. On October 20th and 21st, she wowed a full house in the Olympia Theatre with her intentionally robotic show, the controlled movements counteracting the wave of emotions that rush through her new material. As reviewer for that neon hot pink show, I wanted to give her all my stars but, unfortunately, five is the limit here and that’s just what Annie Clark got.
As an ever-evolving artist, Clark pushes the boundaries of what it is to be a bold performer. She filters reality through a twisted prism. Playing contradictions against each other, she dives into a world of discomfort and is quite at home there. And for that refreshing and occasionally thorny outlook at life, she’s the forever VBF for those of us that are in on her dark joke without knowing her at all.
Slice of her soul
With a stint as a member of Polyphonic Spree and later touring with Sufjan Stevens’s band in 2006, Clark’s solo debut as St Vincent was delivered with a perfectly wry title of her album Marry Me. Taken from an ongoing joke in Arrested Development, where the teenage character Maeby (played by Alia Shawkat) somehow dupes an entire film studio not believing that she’s a fully-fledged movie executive, Marry Me is a comparatively subdued introduction to the artist whose entire appearance – from the way her hair falls to the cold gaze she holds onstage – is now an extension of her art project. Falling deeper and deeper into the persona of St Vincent, it feels like Clark’s music is a greasy slice of her soul that’s served up in pretty packaging; the packaging aimed to distract us from fully understanding her. Her heartaches, her misgivings, her desires, her fetishes and her crushing blows of devastation are delivered to us in songs such as Cruel, Prince Johnny, Saviour and Young Lover. She spills her secrets but keeps a little bit to herself, for personal safety and that all-important air of mystery. So mysterious is she that even David Byrne, who she recorded the 2012 album Love This Giant with, said this of her in 2014 in an interview with the Village Voice: “Despite having toured with her for almost a year I don’t think I know her much better, at least not on a personal level.”
Toying with madness
Forever toying with madness in her music, Clark also has the power to flip sorrow into something we can either allow consume us or simply enjoy and her latest single does exactly that. An uptempo reworking of Slow Disco, an album track from Masseduction, Fast Slow Disco has you ugly crying on the dance floor. “Slip my hand from your hand, leave you dancin’ with a ghost,” she sings over a thudding beat, “Don’t it beat a slow dance to death?” Sure, look, isn’t it better to hold on to a faint memory of something instead of facing the world alone, sidling slowly to death with only your vacant thoughts for company? That’s the kind of morbid cheer we want in our pop songs around here. If you’re not sobbing in time with the pulse of a disco synth then what are you doing with yourself at all?
Taking to the main stage on the Sunday night of Electric Picnic, six weeks short of a year since the release of Masseduction and on a stage far bigger than the Olympia’s, Clark’s return to Stradbally will be bursting with provocative adrenaline and cloaked emotion.