Rod Liddle

St Vincent: Masseduction

When she retreats into skewed and unsettling soft rock the album truly comes alive

St Vincent: Masseduction
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Grade: A

The old Tulsa sound was a rather agreeable low-key, shuffling, blues-inflected rockabilly — primarily J.J. Cale and Leon Russell. Which then somehow mutated into the anglophile pop of Dwight Twilley. Here’s the third wave of it — probably the best yet, much though I admire all the aforementioned.

A strange lady, St Vincent — in real life plain ol’ gender-fluid Annie Clark from Oklahoma. And this is another rather wonderful album from the woman. She may be this decade’s Prince, for the breadth of vision and the invention and crucial ability to wring melodies out of the dead ground. Here and there the listener must navigate around slabs of generic R&B, such as the tiresome title track. And the occasional nostalgic bursts of disco pap, as in ‘Pills’, or hi nrg workouts like ‘Sugarboy’, which stretch tedium beyond acceptable limits. But when she retreats into the skewed and sometime unsettling soft rock that is her habitual redoubt, the album truly comes alive. ‘Los Ageless’ (good title) — where ‘the mothers milk their young’ — is beautiful. She recycles basically the same chorus for ‘Smoking Section’, the nonetheless exquisite and, er, smoky ballad. ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’ has a pretty little catch in its throat and could possibly be covered by Streisand, or, worse, Adele. And the best track, ‘New York’, a big-balled ballad full of the usual millennialist over-egged self-esteem and braggadocio: ‘You’re the only motherfucker in the city who can handle me!’

Don’t bet on it, Annie, luv. Singing like this we can all handle you. On the album cover she shoves her arse in your face. It’s how they are today, the young.