St. Vincent's superb All Born Screaming offers up thrillingly unfiltered reflections upon life, death, and all the chaos that occurs between those two inevitabilities

St. Vincent strives for catharsis on masterful seventh album All Born Screaming

All Born Screaming
(Image: © Virgin)

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The two-decade-long career of Annie Clark, the musician better known as triple-Grammy-winning icon St. Vincent, has been defined not only by transformation, but by pain. 

Having released three albums – 2011’s Strange Mercy, 2014’s St. Vincent, and 2017’s sultry Masseduction - during her father’s incarceration following counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, security fraud, and money laundering, his release in 2019 marked a new era. Following a string of avant-garde pop-rock albums, 2021’s Daddy’s Home was a conceptual realisation. Steeped in New York lore and boasting everything from 70s soul and smooth psychedelia to epic progressive ballads and infectious glam-pop songs, it stretched the limits of the Texan visionary’s creativity further than ever. But on seventh album All Born Screaming St. Vincent is stripping it back to basics. 

Life, death, and all the chaos that occurs between those two inevitabilities, it’s an invitation to embrace the end. Her first self-produced record – having co-produced all her previous releases - it presents Clark at her most unfiltered, dominated by fat 1980s synthesisers and an industrial menace. A prowling, brutal collection of songs, Born Screaming opens with the immaculately restrained Hell Is Near and its epic follow-up Reckless set the scene with stormy electronics, before menacing industrial track Broken Man unleashes a wicked sense of disorder.

Dave Grohl is behind the drumkit for both Broken Man and the thundering arena-rock inspired Flea – complete with a ridiculous Yes-style prog section – and while there’s a calamitous feel to the album’s opening half, it’s distinctly St. Vincent. The doom-laced sensual strut of Big Time Nothing comes wrapped in characteristically warped synths, funk choruses, and spoken-word verses, but as the album reaches its mid-point - the stakes change. 

Swerving from a guitar-heavy onslaught to an expansive, soaring soundscape, the back-end of All Born Screaming is tinged with positivity, or perhaps naivety. If the opening section of the album serves as a tribute to the hopelessness of life and the unavoidable nature of death, the Two-Tone dub and ugly grandeur of Violent Times come as a nod to just get on with it. Finding beauty and purpose in the chaos and destruction, The Power’s Out and So Many Planets bask in gorgeously dreamy yet dangerously apocalyptic soundscapes, whilst Sweetest Fruit serves as a tribute to those who dare to swing for transcendency in life - opening with an ode to the late electronic music producer SOPHIE.

By the time the album’s near-seven-minute closing title track rolls around - powered by a triumphant bassline courtesy of Welsh musician Cate Le Bon and culminating in a wild instrumental section – All Born Screaming has delivered the ultimate emotional whiplash. From riffs that kick you in the teeth to euphoric synth sections, invitations to dance sprinkled amongst jarring reminders of our fleeting existence, St. Vincent shoots for a pummelling reminder to grab life by the balls, and hits the bullseye. 

Freelance contributor