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Judy G.

CD of The Week

Week of 4/29/24

    St. Vincent - All Born Screaming (Virgin)

    OK, enough about Daddy. Mother has returned.

    Indeed, while Daddy’s Home, Annie Clark's 2021 album of paternal reckoning, isn't lacking for defenders (or Grammys), it was definitely the first instance of the seams showing in a St. Vincent project. The line between concept and mere costume had never felt more debatable. All Born Screaming wisely renders that debate moot again. It's Clark's most conceptually loose album since her 2007 debut Marry Me, with more eclectic production and, ironically, more personal songwriting than its predecessor.

    That production and songwriting no doubt feel more unified this time around because it's the first time Clark has handled the former in its entirety on a St. Vincent release. She brings the same magpie approach to her own work that she did behind the boards with Sleater-Kinney on The Center Won't Hold. "Flea", an extended metaphor that compares love to infestation, augments the basic St. Vincent ingredients with grunge guitar worthy of Nirvana and even scores stadium-filling drums from Dave Grohl himself. Another advance single, "Broken Man," brings back the glamour and glitter of MASSEDUCTION, but this time With Teeth

    Elsewhere, "Violent Times" brings Bond theme-worthy brass to an epiphany of misplaced priority in times of chaos (anyone who says they can't relate after the last few years is lying) while standout "Sweetest Fruit" pays touching tribute to dearly deceased pop pioneer SOPHIE with Edge-like guitars over galloping art pop percussion and Stereolab's Dots and Loops. We even get nods to vintage ska and gothic metal via the Cate Le Bon-assisted title track and "Reckless," respectively. After the monochrome of her last two albums, it's a relief to see Clark's cup still running over with different ideas here.

    Let's not call this a "return to form," though. Like Bowie, Madonna, and other great pop chameleons in music history, St. Vincent has never adopted one identity long enough to become canon. What we have here is an artist refocused, rocking threads and sounds that, while different, successfully showcase who Annie Clark is as well as who she can still be. It's oddly comforting and even inspiring. After all, we're all born screaming. The rest is drag.

    St. Vincent returns to Philadelphia at The Met on September 6th.
    Review by Rob Huff

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