Album Review: Alice Glass – PREY//IV

[Eating Glass; 2022]

The patriarchy hates powerful women. It’s that simple. They don’t suit the narrative, those tales of gendered performance that place males as coercively ‘dominant’; where women are systematically marginalised due to the lie of them being ‘too emotional’; whilst at the same time reclassifying anger as worthwhile, a necessary biological trait fuelled by testosterone – it’s not an emotion, it’s an energy. The demonization of women in music is nothing new, of course, but in light of the #MeToo movement there has at least been some headway in recognising the roles of individuals, and the industry’s institutionalised issues, but let’s not fool ourselves that the job is done. Far from it.

PREY//IV is Alice Glass’s debut solo album, and the personal issues that are addressed here, that she faced silently, and the subsequent repercussions since the dissolving of Crystal Castles, have been nothing short of devastating. The abusive relationship with her former band mate (look up his name if you must) resulted in a diagnosis of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – yet there will no doubt still be some who find fault in her role in all of that. Why did she stay? Why is she talking so much/too much about it now? etc etc….Those people need to sit down, take a deep breath or two, and ask themselves exactly what is wrong with their lives and mentality.

The fact is, abusive relationships are all too common. Some people have the strength to pick up the pieces and move forward (in a sideways manner, maybe) whilst others crumble under the weight and burden placed upon them and the questions that will often be left unresolved. My initial thought on the album was that I wished it hadn’t needed to be written, that nobody should have gone through what Glass did, yet that’s maybe the patriarchy damaging my own sense of self and needing to be seen as a protector, even of complete and utter strangers. The patriarchy hurts us all.

The fact that PREY//IV exists should actually be seen as a cause for celebration, that in the face of the most disgusting adversity there is a desire to cleanse, a survival instinct that transcends the acts of another. Powerful stuff. The fact that Glass hasn’t moved too far from the sounds of Crystal Castles can also be read as a statement of strength and agency – claiming an aural territory that was, and is, hers. This isn’t a total reinvention, but it’s refreshening. The album title, placing herself as the PREY and numbering it IV to mark a continuation of the discography of her former band, will also be seen as ‘bold’ in some places, ‘controversial’ in others, though on listening to the record it makes perfect sense.

But all of these facts don’t mask the issues with PREY//IV – at times it’s startling in its brashness, at others repetitive and bland.

The abusive relationship is focused on here on a number of tracks, most harrowingly on “PINNED BENEATH LIMBS”, which centres on the technique of separating the victim from their support network – trust issues being turned in on themselves. The sweet nature of Glass’ vocal delivery, juxtaposed by a cascading electronic maelstrom, adds a deepened understanding of the core aspects of the abuse – a pretence of caring, a projection of knowing what’s best. “I TRUSTED YOU” uses glitchy beats to underpin an electronic ballad that opines the actions of another in the face of extreme vulnerability. These two, near either end of the record, serve as a reminder of the complexities of the emotional state of the one on the receiving end – it’s a jumble of feelings, of trying to make sense of it all.

“EVERYBODY ELSE” uses a jewellery box-esque chiming intro, sounding almost like a dancehall melody, but this is as interesting as the song gets. This is a main issue with the album across its 13 tracks – some kick off so well but go nowhere. The tracks have earworm melodies but often fall short in terms of totally grabbing the listener with an undeniable hook. “THE HUNTED” is a squeal of vocals and synth lines which is startling before falling flat during a spoken-word section that feels superfluous.   

PREY//IV sounds like Crystal Castles, but it isn’t a copy of their three albums. This is how they would have progressed, taking influence from FKA twigs and Arca amongst others. The confessional nature of the lyrics are a form of therapy, and the aural voyeurism that the listener engages in often makes for an uncomfortable listen. Glass often switches between abused and abuser, highlighting a need to face up to the actions, motivations, and internal drive of another’s actions as a huge step in the healing process. Shame for you if that makes you feel uncomfortable, buddy.