8 July 2009

Review: St Vincent, Bristol Thekla, 06/07/09

Originally published in NME

If there’s one thing more sickening than the recent deluge of jaws agog at the notion that two X chromosomes do not an insuperable musical deficiency make, it’s the fact that some of the most innovative and crucial female musicians remain underrated in favour of certain mould-fresh synth-poppers. Step forward Annie Clark, the chaotically coiffed Oklahoman who goes by the name of St Vincent and sounds nothing like The Human League, Kate Bush or Björk – suck on that, pigeonholers! Yet despite the near universal acclaim of her equal parts 1930s Disney OST and King Crimson-inspired second album, ‘Actor’, it’s comparatively quiet aboard Bristol’s Thekla this evening, and there’s the sweet scent of schadenfreude in the air for those who are missing out.

From the thrusting jazz lounge bop of ‘Marry Me’ in all its live syncopated wonder, it’s pretty clear that Clark’s interest in glitter and theatrics lies solely within the music; the perfectionist intuition between her and her band of beardy merry men is such that the flicker of an eyebrow or drawing of breath acts as a sort of Morse code for speed and sparkle, but it never feels clinical or rehearsed. On ‘The Strangers’ she coos her own spacey “backing” vocals on dual microphones, harmonizing eerily with the woodwind, and ‘Save Me From What I Want’ corrupts its recorded beauty with a jarring time difference between guitar and vocals.

Incongruity is perhaps one of Annie’s greatest strengths – waifish and poised, during the demonic shredding on ‘Now Now’ and single ‘Actor Out Of Work’ she convulses as if trapped in a lightning bolt, and forcibly beats her guitar during the sax propelled thumbnail screw riff of ‘Marrow’ to make it scream louder. The encore’s a perfect juxtaposition of celestial beauty and gnarliness with ‘The Party’ and the rapturously received ‘Your Lips Are Red’, but she’s humble to the last. Never mind the showgirls – it’s always the quiet ones.


Leah said...

Nice review :D

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