St. Vincent All Born Screaming Review: A thrillingly unpredictable listen

Annie Clark brings darkness, then light on seventh album.

St. Vincent

by Tom Doyle |
Updated on

St. Vincent

All Born Screaming



St. Vincent All Born Screaming

AFTER THE out-of-time 1970s masterpiece that was 2021’s Daddy’s Home, it was perhaps inevitable that Annie Clark would feel the pull of bubbling synths, dirty guitars and conspicuous modernity once again. Entirely self-producing for the first time, here Clark has made a more difficult record than its predecessor – at least in its first half – and one created in the wake of unspecified loss.

The spiralling English folk rock of Hell Is Near, in which Clark assumes vocal tones clearly indebted to Beth Gibbons, is a misdirecting opener. Second cut, Reckless, is where the darkness begins to close in, in an impressionistic depiction of bereavement, watching someone fade away in the “London sun” as the narrator begins “cracking up”. It’s one of two consecutive songs to feature the latter phrase. Broken Man, with its ’83 Eurythmics synth pulses and a guesting Dave Grohl’s artfully syncopated drum fills, sees her assume the role of a peacocking, macho character who, as the title makes explicit, isn’t all he seems.

Stylistically, All Born Screaming pinballs madly between dream pop, prog, grunge, electronica and industrial, making for thrilling, unpredictable listening, with Clark’s voice the cohesive glue. The moment when the heaviness appears to lift is meanwhile deceptive: the parasitic relationship of Flea (in which Grohl revives his shuffling In Bloom beat) gives way to the Grace Jones (think Pull Up To The Bumper) groove of Big Time Nothing, the sashaying moves of which belie the fact that it’s essentially a self-empowering mantra attempting to destroy negative thinking.

Part two attempts to search for the beauty in chaos and tragedy. Sweetest Fruit, with its Hounds Of Love-era Kate Bush synth quirks and tom-tom beat, is a tribute to Scottish electro-pop artist SOPHIE, who fell to her death from a rooftop in Athens in 2021 while trying to photograph the full moon (“But for a minute, what a view,” Clark imagines). Meanwhile, The Power’s Out transcribes the skipping rhythm of David Bowie’s Five Years to an ’80s beatbox, as a national outage (as opposed to looming doomsday) leads to episodes of murder and suicide amongst a city filled with desperate characters.

While Clark has confessed that All Born Screaming was her toughest LP to make so far, both due to personal trauma and her sole overseeing of the recording process, support comes from bassist/programmer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, Nine Inch Nails) and the increasingly omnipresent Cate Le Bon, fresh from producing Wilco and Devendra Banhart. The latter lends additional production to a handful of tracks but earns a feature vocal credit on the near-seven-minute title track, wherein she and Clark layer up an operatic coda over an insistent, rave-y beat. It’s a celebratory ending to a clearly cathartic album that further proves Annie Clark to be a brilliant and multifaceted musical force.


Hell is Near
Broken Man
Big Time Nothing
Violent Times
The Power’s Out
Sweetest Fruit
So Many Planets 
All Born Screaming (featuring Cate Le Bon)

All Born Screaming is out now on Virgin/Fiction

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon | Rough Trade | HMV

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