Published Sep 22, 2020Marie Davidson doesn't make untrue music. At its best, it feels like unbroken eye contact — her music is rarely cheerful, but it finds joy, humour even, in rage. As she deadpans on the title track of her new record, "I betray everything I make / Anger is everything I am."
Renegade Breakdown, the astonishing follow-up to 2018's Working Class Woman, is credited to Marie Davidson & L'Œil Nu, as Davidson invites fellow Montreal DIY stalwarts Pierre Guerineau and Asaël R. Robitaille along for the ride. Equal parts angry and playful, hopeful and heartbroken, it's easily the best work any of them — individually or otherwise — have ever made.
The record opens with its outrageous manifesto of a title track —the clearest connective thread to Working Class Woman, with its shit-talking speak-sing —and then explodes like a firecracker, chasing a dozen styles and moods to their ecstatic endpoint. From the prog-rock storm cloud of "Back to Rock," to the metallic disco stomp of "Worst Comes to Worst" and "C'est parce que j'm'en fous" or the slate grey dissonance of "Lead Sister," the record is a delirious reconfiguring of '70s and '80s pop textures.
There's little in Davidson's catalogue that could have helped predict Renegade Breakdown's lush, crystalline songwriting — those who know Davidson for songs like "Workaholic Paranoid Bitch" or "Excès de vitesse" will likely be thrown by the gentle acoustic sway of "My Love" or string-laden closer "Sentiment." The thing that holds it all together is Davidson herself, the star at the centre of this strange universe. The icy chill that defined Working Class Woman has thawed, allowing deep yearning and nostalgia to colour her typically hard-edged presence.
The undeniable highlight is "Centre of the World (Kotti Blues)," a shimmering acoustic ballad that shifts and dives like a murmuration of starlings. Davidson sings of regret and longing, of dreams confused and lost in life's intersecting paths — its sparkling guitars and cascading chimes are the record's loping heartbeat. Renegade Breakdown marks a thrilling deepening of Davidson's artistic voice. In its breathless exploration, Davidson blows open a dozen new doors. From here, she could go anywhere. (Bonsound)