Lana Del Ray - Ultraviolence LP
Lana Del Rey is a pretty contentious artist for such a physically beautiful and clearly talented pop star. Most people will either love her or hate her, very rarely do I come across someone who is like "oh yeah I like just one song" and mostly that is because all of her songs carry the same sound and feel. This polarization is no stronger anywhere than it is within the gay community (let’s not pretend Lana Del Rey’s main audience are not gay men who are whacking off to the way she encapsulates bourgeois lifestyles of do nothing fabulousness who live off sugar daddies, cigarettes and booz). I for one am one such listener who actually tends to be in the positive when it comes to Lana, her debut album Born to Die had some great songs on it such as the title track, and all of the singles including National Anthem, Blue Jeans and the painfully bleak Video Games. However, the album was a singles album and apart from the few fleeting moments that it satisfies, it is otherwise full of fillers.
Her Paradise EP was however a huge improvement, with every song hitting in its own impactful moment in the way that Lana’s voice tends to, and a gorgeous cover of Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet, that EP is a sensual, American surreal dream sonically equivalent to the more softer images of David Lynch, Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma all rolled together.
But Paradise worked so well because it seemed to fill in the cracks that Born to Die had and carry forward the same sound and feel that we love about Lana Del Rey, whilst not really repeating it, Paradise is a more mature album then the occasionally too loose Born to Die. So when it was announced that Lana Del Rey’s new album would be darker, more brooding and carry the title Ultraviolence, a reference to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, I could not have been more excited.
When first hearing and seeing the lead single West Coast I must admit disappointment, it seemed to not only not move forward in any way, but be lyrically and sonically more wonky than most of her work, somewhat disengaging and half thought out. However, as I think is this case with all good works and particularly for Lana Del Rey overall, it takes several listens to get into the groove and feel of the piece. However, Ultraviolence dropped in full on Friday and I am still not sure, after at least 6 full trips through that I can say the same.
I have chosen not to read any other reviews of the album so my thoughts are not driven by anything by own response to the music but I am almost certain that many will say the exact same as me and that is the album is NOTHING new at all and that is almost a bad thing. I do think that Lana Del Rey is a very talented artist with a great look, feel, sound, style, voice but also a good lyrically mind but Ultraviolence may have me thinking otherwise. It falls apart at time because, if you are a fan of Del Rey, the first track Cruel World speaks almost like a joke line up of all the words Lana likes to throw around and at six minutes forty seconds it is far too long.
The best tracks on the album are easily the title track Ultraviolence and Shades of Cool, but it is mostly due to the sound of these tracks and not the lyrics, although they do have their moments, ‘and when he calls he call for me and not you’ fits perfectly in time with the track Lana’s voice is better than ever before. That is what ultimately drives this album, be it her weakest lyrically, her voice has never sounded better and although I am sure there is much digital tweaking going on (sometimes it is obvious distortion) it gives for a wonderful listen. Del Rey did have a hand in the production of this album as I think she always does however to what extent I am not sure and so I am not sure if it is her who has come up with some of the truly dreamy sounds throughout, but as a whole, her voice married with this to give a pleasant listen, even if it is much the same as before.
If you are looking for a night within the unstable area of the American dream, Ultraviolence will take you there in sound and style, just don’t pay too much attention to what is being said for the most part, it may drag you out. Nothing new at all, however, it is not without its pleasures. Maybe listen with a bottle of red wine and a pack of cigarettes as you stare into nothing in your best clothes on the couch alone at home.