St. Vincent – ‘All Born Screaming’ album review: self-produced and self-assured

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St. Vincent – ‘All Born Screaming’

THE SKINNY: Annie Clark, more commonly known as St. Vincent, has worked with some of the best producers around. She’s completed several albums with John Congleton, teamed up with Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, and more recently forged a relationship with pop production royalty Jack Antonoff. But, for her newest offering, Clark opted to go it alone.

All Born Screaming is the first album St. Vincent has self-produced and solo-produced. And it shows. The album acts as a moodboard for her artistry, one that flits between her musical interests with ease, unafraid to try and sometimes fail at new things. There are industrial soundscapes, sultry grooves and pulsing-club-ready moments. There are moments of straightforward rock and screeching guitars, Bowie influences, and Byrne influences, all moulding around the drama in her delivery.

As the instrumentation struggles to stay in one place, so, too, do her musings. She sings of life and death, of violence and of kindness, of lipstick stains and haemorrhaging heartthrobs, of eternity, and of the end. She jumps between topics just as easily as between genres, but her tone is unwaveringly weighty and cinematic. 

While Clark may have immersed herself in the producer role for All Born Screaming, the record boasts some impressive instrumental features. Dave Grohl offers up his drumming skills to several tracks while Cate Le Bon provides bass to the concluding anthem. With Josh Freese, Stella Mozgawa and more, Clark’s list of collaborators is a particularly impressive one, but she never loses herself within it.

Forgoing personas and external producers, All Born Screaming is St. Vincent in her purest form. It’s just a shame that, sometimes, that form is shrouded in busy soundscapes and straightforward rock.

For fans of: Drama and Dave Grohl.

A concluding comment from Elle’s boyfriend: “Why are you listening to Royal Blood?”

All Born Screaming track by track:

Release date: April 26th | Producer: St. Vincent | Label: Virgin Music/Fiction Records

‘Hell Is Near’: The beginning. Holy ghosts, lipstick stains and ash on linoleum. A rock soundtrack that’s equally spiritual and spectral, with synths that would fit seamlessly into the Blade Runner universe. [4/5]

‘Reckless’: A soft start veers between breathless and reckless as Clark contemplates mourning. Her weighty, wavering vocals are punctuated by the occasional pluck or piano chord. It’s almost cool, but it just misses as it derails itself into an outro that seems tailored to TikTok edits. [3/5]

‘Broken Man’: Again, Clark plunges an intriguing opening into righteous rock with her Nine Inch Nails-inspired lead single, with drums from Dave Grohl. She plays with percussion and makes kingdoms come before diving into industrial territory, but the first half of the song somehow maintains more intrigue. [3.5/5]

‘Flea’: ‘Flea’ buzzes and flits about as much as the insect it borrows its namesake from, bumping into windows as it goes. Clark’s words chart eternities and everything while guitars screech behind her. It rocks, but it’s a little too busy for its own good, and it lacks a certain St. Vincent charm. At times, it’s just as frustrating as a flea. [3/5]

‘Big Time Nothing’: Wobbling guitars and intentional delivery make ‘Big Time Nothing’ stand out amidst some fairly straightforward rock leanings. It’s a little more light-hearted, playful and groovy, as Clark encourages you to “Don’t trip, sashay…” [3.5/5]

‘Violent Times’: Clark takes things down a notch for ‘Violent Times’, a sultry and slow number that could quench even the most desperate desire for a martini, shaken, not stirred. Finding kindness amidst violence but still waking up in hell, it’s one of the most cinematic songs on the record. [4/5]

‘The Power’s Out’: St. Vincent well and truly blows out the candle with ‘The Power’s Out’, settling into a mellower buzz against the content of her words. She sings of more imagined violence and harm with jarring calmness. [4/5]

‘Sweetest Fruit’: An ode to the late Sophie and a longing for something more. [3.5/5]

‘So Many Planets’: Clark finds something beyond America on the penultimate track, traversing “so many planets” before she finds her own. It continues to forgo that weighty beginning in favour of more playful instrumental pastures, weaving revolution and trauma into her characteristic Bowie stylings. [3.5/5]

‘All Born Screaming’: Clark lets go of it all on the lengthy titular track, ‘All Born Screaming’. “I own nothing, and nothing owns me,” she shrugs, her simple yet profound acceptance lightened by airy vocals, mischievous guitars and a pulsing outro. [4/5]

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