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Review : Miss Anthropocene - Grimes

Fenella Johnson reviews the latest from indie pop star Grimes

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Image Credit: image credit : 4AD 2020

**7 / 10 **
It seemed likely that Miss Anthropocene’s release cycle would overshadow its arrival. A variety of think-pieces had gathered in its wake - it was initially described as a climate change concept album, for one thing - concerned with her ongoing relationship with billionaire Elon Musk. Transformed into tabloid-fodder, vilified by her left-leaning indie fan base, Miss Anthropocene threatened to be overshadowed by it’s creator’s persona - after all, what music measures up to Grimes talking on Instagram about how she got experimental surgery on her eyes so she can’t see blue light ? The first singles suggested that this may be the case, eclipsed first by her defence of Musk’s union busting and the batshit showdown with Azelia Banks, and veered in quality between excellent and half-baked. No wonder then, that the primary emotion of the record is frustration.

This frustration morphs in the record to an overwhelming, exhausting paranoia. Grimes is restless, constantly overthinking, and unable to sleep : “I never trust the government” she chirps in My Name is Dark, while later admitting “I don’t go to sleep anymore”. There’s an unsettling wistfulness in her wish for “the end of the world”, and in the comedy of her admittance that “imminent annihilation sounds so dope”. There’s another frustration in the album, too, a sense that if Grimes wasn’t overthinking and overtinking it so much that a great album would emerge. The best pop music is effortless - here, the effort is palpable. It means that not everything always lands : there’s too much going on sonically, gothic chants and frantic whispers and shrieks, and sections that don’t quite come together or track onto long. There's nothing to rival the highs of Art Angels, her previous record, which launched her closer to the mainstream. In fairness, it would be strange if there was : that album emerged as a huge leap forward for Grimes, weird and strange and textured, clearly driven by (and formed from) a love of pop music, both past and present. Most artists would find it hard to follow such a beloved record. It's a testament to Grimes that in the face of such pressure she has doubled down on her weirdness, and produced such an idiosyncratic record. For all it's flaws, there's lots to love here.

Violence smartly tap into the cultural power of the reviled woman and the can’t-look-away spectacle of vilification: “you feed off hurting me” she accuses the listener.  4AM, which apes both the swirling rhythms of Bollywood and jingling video-game music, is a late night booty call that is interrupted by a half-warning half-fear : “you’re gonna get sick / you don’t know when” the chorus jeers. The album is filled with this kind of fear - even in the love songs, there’s something more complex emerging. The woozy ’IDORU’ evolves from an expression of romantic desire into a more complex emotion directed towards herself and her art : "You cannot be sad/ because you made my all time favourite music” she coos. It is a strangely moving reckoning with the terms of fandom in the internet-age, and the conflict between the personal and the public. Delete Forever blatantly rips off the jangling guitars from Wonderwall while managing to be a low-key devastating song about the affects of opioid crisis on her friendship circle. “You’ll miss me when I’m not around” she proclaims later on in the record - she’s right. It might just take you a while to remember it this time around.

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