Friday 20 October 2017

When the Saint comes marching in

Playing two shows in Dublin, with a brilliant new album on the way, entrancing St Vincent is no ordinary performer

Annie Clark, aka St Vincent, with her Ernie Ball Music Man signature guitar used on the album Masseduction
Annie Clark, aka St Vincent, with her Ernie Ball Music Man signature guitar used on the album Masseduction
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

She has been called the female alt.Bowie. Although the title is possibly a little reductive, there are worse things to be labelled. Annie Clark got the name St Vincent from a Nick Cave reference to the Greenwich Village hospital where Dylan Thomas died.

She sounds like a little piece of her soul is expiring on the track New York from her much discussed new album when she sings: "You're the only mother***er in the city who can handle me." Just who she is is an intriguing question. She is not your everyday singer, that's who...

Rattlesnake, from her self-titled 2014 album St Vincent, tells the true story of Clark meeting just such a snake during a naked walk in the Texan desert.

Upon seeing the snake, she ran like hell back to the house she was staying in.

"The point of that story is that I don't know anything about snakes or nature," she told Quietus website in 2014.

"I do not have any nature survival skills. I'm so disconnected from that. So, the story sounded like a new kind of creation myth - where you don't come from anybody's rib - and that you are actually alone in the world, which seems more appropriate. It seemed that the record had to start with a creation myth. Everything starts with a creation myth."

Clark grew up in the suburbs of Dallas in the 1980s and 1990s. A place that proved to be "the perfect catalyst for a specific kind of freak - a freak who is quite down-to-earth, because it is Texas, but has to cultivate a sick sense of humour in the face of a very conservative environment".

"So," Clark - whose parents divorced when she was three - continued, "I don't know what it is, specifically - I'm rambling about what I am pontificating about! - that makes a Texas freak different from a California freak, or whatever."

With her new album, Masseduction, the entrancing singer-guitarist has found her groove after some personal problems (anxiety, depression, a break-up) with a record "all about sex and drugs and sadness".

She has also stated that it has "themes of power and sex, imperilled relationships and death".

In an ironic Facebook press conference recently, Clark said that the title of her album - her fifth solo album, co-produced by Bleachers' Jack Antonoff, who has co-written and produced for Taylor Swift and Lorde - was pronounced Mass Seduction not Mass Education.

She added, jokingly (I think), that she "did toy with calling the record Ass Education. That's better suited to be the title of the sequel".

St Vincent, as she is better known, will perhaps be best heard of in the tabloids because her ex of 18 months is English supermodel and actress Cara Delevingne.

The latter pops up on Pill - a cameo that Clark explained thus: "It needed to be a posh British voice. I was like, 'Cara, wake up. I need you to sing on this song'. And she's kind of grumpy. And I'm like, 'Please. It sounds so good. One more time'." And how.

On the melancholic if uplifting New York, St Vincent sings, "New York isn't New York without you, love".

"It's a kind of dance song that you listen to in your bed and cry," she explained. Of the song, which some have taken in some diary-type way to be about Delevingne, Clark told the New Yorker magazine: "It's a composite. That's just a sexist thing [the assumption it is about Delevingne]. 'Women do emotions, but are incapable of rational thought'."

"Every record I make has an archetype," she said of the album. "Strange Mercy was Housewives on Pills. St Vincent was Near-Future Cult Leader. Masseduction is different, it's pretty first-person.

"You can't fact-check it, but if you want to know about my life, listen to this record."

St Vincent plays the Olympia in Dublin on October 20 and 21.

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