W.hen fathers came home, they were mostly expected. Wherever they came from, work or from the war, it was a moment of fear or joy. And potential disappointment. But what does it do to you when your father returns from prison? And to nine children, one of whom, in his absence, has become a promising pop star, of all things?
After a good ten years, the father of Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, was released. Because of financial fraud in the millions, he was imprisoned in Texas, where the New Yorker by choice grew up and visited him for a long time. She was able to keep a secret for a long time that her father is a convicted fraud. Until, through her growing fame and liaisons with models and actresses, a journalist started rummaging around in her private life. Then it was out, and so was the father – and now the talented Clark is meeting this moment of potential disappointment with a new album: “Daddy’s Home” it is called and is her sixth; like her successful “Masseduction” (2017), she has taken on Jack Antonoff again.
Back to the seventies
So dad is at home, without an exclamation mark, but with an energetic first track. “Pay Your Way In Pain” starts ironically with a piano strumming and changes abruptly to the powerful; a sound that seems unusual because you realize how elegiac the pop songs of the last few years have actually become. St. Vincent wants a different sound: funk, soul, new wave, yes, a bit of psychedelic and folk in between.
“Pain” is as close to David Bowie’s “Fame” as fame and pain are already connected. And that’s exactly the time Clark is referring to in “Daddy’s Home”: the early seventies. Why these years? “It is a period of time that I think corresponds to the current one. We’re in a greasy, shoddy phase where we’re trying to figure out where we’re going, ”she said. So: “An idealistic time, after flower power, but before disco.”
A limping comparison, and that’s what the first songs on the album sound like. After the impulsive start, the songs meander up to the first interlude with “Down And Out Downtown” and the eponymous “Daddy’s Home” between funk guitar and anthemic pathos, “Live In a Dream” (six and a half minutes, the longest track on the album) as a psychedelic homage about Pink Floyd is more annoying than haunting.
“The Melting Of The Sun” has one of the most beautiful lyrics on the album. It is about artists – including Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone – who supposedly wanted too much: to be successful artists and denounce grievances. With that they flew too close to the sun. But it is in the nature of the sun that it burns: “I wanna watch you watch it burn (So watch it burn) / We always knew this day would come (The day has come) / It’s just the melting of the sun “. What is left then? Remain steadfast, like Tori, Joni, Nina themselves: “Girl, the world’s spinning ’round / Spinning down and out of time / Girl, you can’t give in now / When you’re down, down and out”. Yes, the world still turns best when it wears down even its most beloved artists.
If the father is present in his absence, where is the mother? She is at home and, because it is always present, can only be found in the background: in three interludes she walks through the house, so to speak humming. There are intermediate pieces that actually make sense on this album (in contrast to many other contemporary pop albums that apparently can’t do without them), because they actually mark a sound change: With “The Laughing Man” St. Vincent emerges with a clear voice , the background singers, who until then have been repeating the lyrics in a dutiful manner, take a back seat. And then comes “Down”, the undoubtedly best song on the album, pure pop that sounds a lot like St. Vincent and truly lives up to its claim as a revenge song, simply because it’s fun.
Language games and fictional characters
Clark likes the cleverness of her texts, for example when she ends the sentence “If life is a joke”, not with the question “then why aren’t we laughing?” As in the English expression, but with “then I am dyin” ‘laughin’ ”. Like their typical puns (“Down and Out Downtown”, “My Baby Wants A Baby”), however, they are somewhat expected.
This pleasure in language play fits, because even though Clark has released her most personal album to date, she continues to love her fictional characters: “Strange Mercy” (2011) revolves around “desperate housewives on pills”, “St. Vincent ”(2014) is a“ sect leader of the near future ”; “Mass-eduction” would be about a “dominatrix in a mental hospital”.
For “Daddy’s Home” she staged lasciviously with a blonde wig, flokati coat and smokey eyes, not dissimilar to Candy Darling, Warhol muse and one of the first trans stars to whom she dedicated the last song. Which “daddy” is actually referring to? Maybe the one who bought the silk negligee she wears and shows him flirtatiously with it?