Published Oct 11, 2018St. Vincent mastermind Annie Clark amped up her guitar-playing prowess with electronic-leaning sounds (and neon pleather) on last year's excellent MASSEDUCTION, but now she's stripped it all back for a bare bones reimagining of the record called MassEducation.
Clearly intended as a companion piece for those already familiar with the record, MassEducation hears Clark's voice teeter on the brink of operatic in spots where it was previously electronically distorted, and often swaps out her raging guitar riffs for just piano. As such, it's an interesting exploration of Clark's songwriting, but it's by no means an improvement over the original.
The dark undercurrent, raunchy humour and kink that punctuated songs like "MASSEDUCTION" and "Savior" dissipates when the songs are stripped down to vocals and keys, leaving some of MASSEDUCTION's highlights sounding like sleezy piano lounge numbers.
As for the moments of tenderness that softened the blow of MASSEDUCTION — think "Happy Birthday, Johnny" and "New York" — the rawness and emotional vulnerability that made them stand out on the original actually help them fit in better amongst the piano ballads of MassEducation, dampening their original impact.
"Hang On Me," however, does benefit from the stripped-down treatment, flipping the previous album opener into the album closer, leaving listeners floating on a dreamily melancholic final note.
MASSEDUCTION wasn't broken and didn't need fixing, but a window into Clark's creative process like this is too enticing to turn down. MassEducation is hardly a necessary addition to St. Vincent's repertoire, but it is nevertheless an interesting and worthwhile listen for fans. (Loma Vista)