Three years ago, Annie Clark sent out an “autumn hello” to her newsletter subscribers. “Last night,” she recounted, “I attended a party meant to celebrate ‘fashion’ where I felt woefully out of place. I, however, am not one to look a gift horse full of champagne in the mouth. So I grabbed a couple and began chatting up the most interesting-looking person in the room.”
That night, fame’s gift horse presented her with a retired police officer’s stories about 9/11. Shortly after, St Vincent passed from champagne receptions into the inner sanctum of high celebrity, thanks in part to her relationship with Cara Delevingne, and had a strange few years. ‘Masseduction’ is the result, another gift from fame’s fickle filly, a clutch of tales about power, lust and spectacle.
This time, though, the subject is St Vincent herself, from the softly spoken, synth-fogged desperation of opener ‘Hang On Me’ (“I cannot stop the aeroplane from crashing”) to an out-of-control paramour ODing in a bathtub on ‘Young Lover’, to ‘Pills’, a witty, madcap sketch of self-medication. “I heard the tales: fortune and blame,” she confides. “Tigers and wolves, defanged by fame”. An eruption of fat, fuzzy squiggling guitar confirms her intention to disrupt the cautionary-tale narrative. Yet amid thrusting, shunting funk and slideshow of surreal desires, the title track heartily acknowledges complicity in the great sex sale: “I can’t turn off what turns me on,” she wails.
It might all be a bit Introductory Media Studies if ‘Masseduction’ wasn’t, firstly, so much fun and, secondly, so personal. Perhaps the closest to home of all is ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’: pedal steel, delicate piano and heart’s blood, and the memory of “you’ve changed” recriminations from loved ones. ‘Smoking Section’ ends on a dark night of the soul, but the final refrain is “it’s not the end”. The horror stories are dodged, and St Vincent goes on. She’s due, next year, to direct a film adaptation of The Picture Of Dorian Gray; in ‘Masseduction’ we already have both Dorian and his portrait: the fox on the album’s cover, all rampant neons, stockinged legs, and taut flesh, and the inner ravaging – material just too good to keep in the attic.