Christine and the Queens’ follow-up to 2022’s Redcar les adorables étoiles is conceived as “a prayer towards the self” and, like its predecessor, makes for a dark, inscrutable listen. Still grieving his mother, Redcar’s (aka Chris) lyrics are strewn with references to angels, though it’s not explicit whether they denote a benevolent or harmful presence. It’s just as tricky getting a foothold on the music, which careens from wistful synths to drum and bass to prog to piano ballad. Even when tracks like ‘Tears Can Be So Soft’ hint at R&B, they’re accompanied by basslines so dark and nihilistic they make you write off any hope of an afterlife.
Madonna also haunts several tracks, but don’t expect any pop escapism: the cyborg-ish spoken interlude in ‘Angels Crying in My Bed’ only augments the sense of alienation. Then there’s the bizarre sampling of ‘Canon in D Major’ in ‘Full of Life’ – a comment on the triteness of ceremonial music to mark the inescapable march of time, or just another bewildering twist? Lead single ‘To Be Honest’ offers a moment of relative clarity, with Redcar laying out the vulnerable sensation of experiencing life “Like a movie / Played by another star”. With his mother gone, Redcar must shed yet another skin and learn a fresh set of lines. PARANOÏA, ANGELS, TRUE LOVE reckons painfully with loss, desperately seeking meaning as it thrashes towards the shore. An immersive if demanding listen, it positions death as the ultimate piece of theatre – and one which definitely won’t come with CliffsNotes.