After the airing of the rather jagged, scattered and slightly neurotic ‘Birth in Reverse’, all signs pointed to a fierce and unpredictable LP from St Vincent. While the capricious and tantalising mania found on said song has indeed succeeded in spreading through the presence and approach of this ensuing record, the streamlined consistency of its execution sadly has not. Any sense of unpredictability, at least in any experimental sense, often disappears into what can become quite a messy, muddy and (occasionally) even monotonous record.

The opening quartet of songs are charged, eclectic and coated with an atmosphere that radiates a delightful sense of impulsiveness and showcase St Vincent at her greatest and most endearing. The opening (and arguable album highlight) ‘Rattlesnake’, for example, sparks a fuse to create a perfect concoction of discombobulated beats and wiry, scratchy guitar with Annie Clark’s tense but controlled vocal delivery. It’s a track that can feel as light and bouncy as it can intense and seething. An early lyrical peak can then be found on ‘Prince Johnny’, the word play and imagery packed into its brief excursion again showcasing the wonderful highs that Clark is capable of reaching as a songwriter. However, by the time we hit ‘Digital Witness’ (a scraggly, left-over sounding cut from her recent David Byrne collaboration) things begin to wobble and lose momentum.

St Vincent can do simplistic, repetitive refrain wonderfully (see ‘Strange Mercy’’s beauty ‘Year of The Tiger’) but on the almost too similar ‘I Prefer Your Love’ it’s difficult to extract anything new from the now already familiar approach she’s undertaking. It becomes something of a recurring issue as way too many song structures and patterns sound like previous St Vincent cuts.

The second half of the record is scattered with moments of brilliance but just as frequently it is filled with the forgettable and the anticipated.  ‘Psychopath’ feels somewhat fleeting, a blurry sketch of a song that then bleeds into a murky, feeble hobble to the finish line. The following ‘Every Tear Disappears’ looks set to rattle and spark into life from the sputtering electronics that bubble and bark underneath but, like a lot of the latter half of the record, the most interesting musical experiments are hushed and supressed into the background, left to create yet another – albeit interesting – backing-track for a very vocal-prominent take. As beautiful as Annie Clark’s vocals are, by the dying moments of album closer ‘Severed Crossed Fingers’ one can’t help but feel she’s stuck a little too rigidly to a formula and consequently squashed any underlying experimentation with it. dot

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