Review Summary: Beautifully, unapologetically flawed."You can't fact-check it, but if you want to know about my life, listen to this record."
The most admirable thing about St. Vincent's fifth album is its unabashed honesty. Masseduction
seems to play out in an autobiographical manner - however romanticized or bizarre that autobiography may be - and wears its fascinating quirks on its sleeve. Annie Clark has already proven to us that her mix of eclecticism and emotional depth can take her (and us) to some truly amazing heights, but something about Masseduction
's approach is just so... upfront. Whether it's the blunt allusions to the power of pharmaceuticals in the peppy "Pills," the punkish lyrical ugliness in the electronic rock of the title track, or the downright strange fusion of epic choirs and uptempo techno beats in "Sugarboy," Clark steadfastly refuses to conform to pop music's normal conventions. However, despite the fact that she herself intended for Masseduction
to be a more personal effort, things are often still veiled and poetic enough that not every line can necessarily be taken literally.
Trying to take a normal critical approach to Masseduction
is nearly impossible for me to do. Why" Because, paradoxically, I find the flaws of this album to also be the strengths (and vice versa). On one hand, the experimentation and unsettling nature of the record make it bold and exciting to listen to. On the other hand, I find that they lead to a heavily disjointed experience that's better on a song-by-song basis than a cohesive whole. Hearing something like the beautifully somber and hypnotic ballad "Happy Birthday, Johnny" appear in the same track listing as "Pills" feels like a swift smack to the face, and the overarching contrast in the dynamics of the album just adds fuel to the fire. For instance, one of the album's quietest moments, the phenomenal piano-driven ballad "New York" is directly followed by the manic energy and synthesizer-dominated turbulence of "Fear the Future." If Masseduction
's honesty is its greatest asset, then its inconsistency is its greatest crutch. It doesn't seem settled on a direction, and instead opts to say "fuck it" and go in every direction at once. Personally, despite the issues the album has, I do find this approach very bold and admirable at the same time. In the end, I have no choice but to give it a recommendation, even though I would also warn you that the more unconventional stuff can be a serious turn off for some people. The only big question I have is in regards to where Annie Clark goes from here. She's peeled off more layers of her personality and persona - as well as expanding herself stylistically - so what happens next" I suppose we'll see.