St Vincent: All Born Screaming (digital outlets)

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Big Time Nothing
St Vincent: All Born Screaming (digital outlets)

Under a title almost designed to confront and in typically striking cover art, Texas-raised Annie Clark (St Vincent) puts yet another stake fiirmly in the ground with this seventh studio album, a decade on from her self-titled fourth album which took her to a huge audience and was critically acclaimed.

Although she has a sometimes singular vision she has also been a keen collaborator, notably with David Byrne for the 2012 album Love This Giant which deployed a brass section prominently.

At 41, Clark is in the vanguard of innovative women who have upheld the mandate of originality and experimentation laid down by David Bowie, Kate Bush, Brian Eno, P.J. Harvey and Tori Amos, all of whom are useful reference points for those coming new to her.

She has a designer's eye for striking cover art – check the Masseducation album image from 2017 – and on All Born Screaming her arms are aflame, like “Icarus in ankle-socks” said Uncut.

St_Vincent___MasseductionHowever on this expansive seventh studio album – – with guests Cate Le Bon, Dave Grohl and Josh Freese of Foo Fighters, and others – she takes flight without such disastrous consequences, exploring ambitious, dense art-rock with Gothic menace and wall-shaking dynamic shifts, as on the thunderous explosion of Reckless, and blast furnace sonic intrusions in the oppressive, boiling synth-rock of Broken Man.

No surprise Nine Inch Nails' bassist/synth programmer Justin Meldal-Johnsen is on hand as an engineer.

Her lyrics drip with disturbing obsession (“Once I'm in you can't get rid of me . . . you will be mine for eternity” on Flea) and societal breakdown on the melodically gorgeous The Power's Out.

But there's funky hard-pop too: Big Time Nothing is like Chic and Gary Numan schooled in Bowie's Lodger with a monotone litany akin to U2's Numb: “don't blink, don't wait, don't walk . . .”

There's cinematic breadth on the pivotal, dramatic Violent Times which might work for a Bond film directed by David Lynch, and the final third offers more space and resolution than what has preceded it with the alt.funk of So Many Planets and the title track with Cate Le Bon.

A journey from darkness into a glow, this – despite such arresting lines as “I feel like graffiti on a urinal in the abattoir” – is quite something.

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You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here

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