Review Summary: We have a winner here.
In an article in The Guardian about Montreal-born electronica DJ, “I’m a total control freak”, the musician admitted in the interview, “I am a total maniac who is very hard on myself.” Indeed, working with her husband Pierre Guerineau as the duo Essaie Pas, as well as having two solo albums released prior and performed relentlessly around the world, not to mention a brief separation with Guerineau and a collapse as a result of her overwork, it’s no wonder that she would self-deprecate as a manipulative person in front of a journalist of a renowned British newspaper. Perhaps such torment inspires Davidson to create her introspective third solo studio album, Working Class Women
, perhaps a wordplay on John Lennon’s famous tune “Working Class Hero”, which reflects at her own workaholism and the society itself. The result is arguably her finest solo work to date.
What makes this album such a fascinating ride is the balance between the seriousness and hilarity, thanks to her signature use of spoken-word in the songs. The first three songs of the album perhaps showed her more satirical side: “Work It” (not to be confused with the Missy Elliott smash with the same name) is the crowning jewel among the ten songs, as she dryly speaks amid the thumping acid house, “You wanna know I get away with everything？/I work, all the f**king time”, poking fun at her own workaholism, while lines such as “Now, I don’t wanna see any fake a** workers/I need real builders” and “When I say work I mean you’ve got to work for yourself/Love yourself, feed yourself” takes aim at the growing capitalism, showing that the DJ is capable of making jibes at herself and the society in general. “Your Biggest Fan” and “The Psychologist” is even more caustic both lyrically and sonically: the former is a venomous caricature shuffled in shadowy synths and flashing samples, as she caricatured clubbers who claim to love a musician’s music to their deep of their heart, yet have no idea who he or she is or the musician is doing, only to care for drugs and his or her attention (“Can I help you roll your cables？/Do you know what's happening？/Are you coming？/Who are you anyway？”); the latter is an EBM-oriented attack on naysayers, as she clapped back them for calling her crazy by, well, calling them back they are the crazy one. Compared to her previous solo records, Working Class Women
is a whip-smart effort that found Davidson unleashed her inner comedian, that makes the album such a significant leap when compared to her previous works.
The rest of the vocal-included songs, on the other hand, is more serious: The twinkling, string-laden “Day Dreaming” is a throwback to her career as one half of Essaie Pas, as she lamented about living not being “a lucrative job” that no one will do it for you, highlighting the reason why she submitted to her own workaholism; The dance-pop euphoria “So Right” found Davidson finally submits to the dance beat, as she sings, “He's got me feeling so right/The music is so nice/I feel like I could die happy/Die happy tonight”, opens the reason why clubbers find their solace at the dance floor, all the while illuminating the stress-filled world nowadays; the futuristic “La chambre intérieure” (“The Inner Chamber”), on the other hand, have Davidson reflecting her own existential crisis, as she documents herself that she has to say hello to the children on the field to confirm she still exists, and asks, “What's love？/How does love taste？/Have you known love？”, reflecting our own existentialism as a part of the society. Icy yet warm, heavenly yet grounded, these tunes are proofs that the electronica musician herself is not just an acid-tongued demonstrator, but a wise sage, expanding the scope and depth of the album.
But even when she’s not speaking through her electronics, Davidson also can portray and transcend anxiety and workaholism like few ever did: Beginning with an industrial soundscape and a clicking clockwork, and sampling a photocopier’s error sound signal, “Lara” is an acidic percussion-driven imagination of a daily work life, as if Davidson was drawing a sketch of a person’s busy life; the bustling “Workaholic Paranoid B***h” is a appropriately named tune that portrays the busy work life in “Lara” finally came to its apex, with the machine gun-speed beats and twitching synths hinting that the character finally meets his/her breaking point through such intensive schedule, and the pitch-black end and echoing beats suggests that he/she finally collapsed due to humongous stress, mirroring Davidson’s own collapse. With such surrealistic sounds, we don’t need Davidson’s voice to realize how petrifying her collapse feels like.
Sure, not everyone can appreciate her heavier sonics when compared it to her relatively calmer work as one half of Essaie Pas and her previous solo albums, and that her verses can be cringe-worthy at times, with her snarly tone in “The Tunnel” doesn’t fit the claustrophobic sound of the song, and the darkly confounding instrumental “Burn Me” doesn’t really fit well to the theme of the album. But what makes this album such a gem is that Davidson could be a fiercely intelligent speaker with sharp wits that critiqued at the modern day society that was riddled with ignorance, partying, greed, stress and many other ugly things, while being an introspective writer who painted her torments as a vivid picture, which somehow slightly recalls the doomed poet Sylvia Plath, as in the end of “Your Biggest Fan”, as she whispered, “No words could explain how deep is the pain”, highlighting both the introspective nature and incisive lyrical attack in this album. Just like the late John Lennon sung in “Working Class Hero”, “And you think you're so clever and classless and free/But you're still f***ing peasants as far as I can see”, Davidson reminded us that we are not as powerful and clean as we all think, and that the so-called freedom is actually a hallucination that we get from our ignorance and partying habits, while uncovering the dirty things we did, and she cleverly used her experience to convey such message and camouflaged the haunting words with engaging compositions. With the runtime of 43 minutes, Working Class Women
is not just her most accessible effort to date, but perhaps her most enlightening and engaging in her entire career, and one of 2018’s most underrated album.
La Chambre intérieure