Marie Davidson: Working Class Woman Album Review
“Workaholic Paranoid Bitch” is a great appellation for Marie Davidson. When this song makes an appearance towards the end of Working Class Woman, she’s tired as all hell. Davidson, who is also one half of the darkwave duo Essaie Pas, has spent nearly six years of her career as a solo artist, using her work as a platform to critique what happens inside of clubs and their surroundings. She excels at putting people in their place: Her 2016 album Adieux au Dancefloor (“Farewell to the Dancefloor”) took down drug-addled fans and techno scensters who were too cool to care. The record was a brutal exposé with a title that felt like both a threat and an inside joke. To listen to Davidson’s music is to be unsure whether or not you’re supposed to laugh or be genuinely frightened for your life.
On Working Class Woman, Davidson continues to explore the claustrophobic interior life of the club in frighteningly deadpan detail. The images here are even more incisive than they’ve been in the past, inhabiting a transgressively feminist comic style of writing not unlike that of Virginie Despentes or Chris Kraus, and with a sound somewhere in between the spoken word electroclash of Miss Kittin and the dreamy dissonance of Julee Cruise. That comedy shows itself as early as the album’s first track, “Your Biggest Fan.” In an unsettling miasma of chopped up vocal samples in French, German, and Italian textured by bulging synths she personifies a fan trying to strike up conversation: “I love your music! Wait, do you play in a band? Yeah I totally saw you!” But then she steps back and bluntly asks, seemingly apropos of nothing, if Working Class Woman is about taking risks. The lines between seriousness and humor are blurry, and that’s kind of the point, where the album excels is in Davidson’s ability to very much intentionally confuse her listener. Working Class Woman is a bold-moves-only album where feminist theory and house music are inseparable. If you’re not paying attention, you are going to miss something.
Davidson’s bluntness mutates throughout the course of the album. In some of the most uncomfortably funny moments, it takes the form of sex, placing Davidson in the hedonistic headspace of a Berlin nightclub at six in the morning. Take “The Psychologist,” where she has a conversation with a disembodied male voice, responding to his questions with sexual self-reflexivity. Or perhaps on “Work It,” where she plays the role of what could be interpreted as both a dominatrix and a SoulCycle instructor: “Tell me how does that feel?/Is sweat dripping down your balls?/Well then you’re not a winner yet!” She goes there, and does so with strident electronics that sound like a woodpecker drilling its beak into a lead pipe.
Thankfully, Davidson doesn’t hide behind irony for the entirety of this record. She never over-relies on a single set of muscles, she flexes them all. On the album’s final track, “La Chambre intérieure,” she takes us to a room where we bare witness to memories of life in a much more bucolic version of her native Québec. There’s no dark humor for Davidson to enshroud herself in, what we see instead is wind turbines spinning in the breeze, tractors, children laughing—an expanse of North American sprawl that is breathtakingly bleak. The synths here are more introspective and subdued, swapping out high BPM bangers for something that moves at the pace of a marathon runner’s resting heartbeat.
In the album’s final moments, Davidson soberly explores what it means to love, and what it means to exist, and to be alive at this very moment in time. All lofty ideas, sure— but then again, this is a record slated in a milieu of chaos, loftiness, and beauty. It would be simplistic to say this album is just a critique of dancefloor culture, there’s more here. She’s also critiquing herself, and in the moonlit glow of her gear, sequencers and all, despair transforms into possibility: “J’existe vraiment,” (I really exist), she whispers.