5 October 2015

Lana Del Rey - Honeymoon

That was a quick turnaround.... It has only been fifteen months since the release of 'Ultraviolence' (our review cleverly linked here) which is her third major label album (fourth in total).  Whilst she had finished the work on 'Ultraviolence' in March 2014, by the time it was released she was already working on the follow up after some film projects fell through.   She has stated in the mainstream press that the album would differ from 'Ultraviolence' and return to themes from her albums 'Born to Die' (our review cleverly linked here) and 'Lana Del Rey’. Also, she created the album instead of re-releasing 'Ultraviolence' again.  I find part of this a bit worrying for a few reasons:  Firstly, 'Ultraviolence' was a fucking phenomenal record and whilst it might have been created in conflict with the main producer Dan Auerbach, the conflict made for a beautiful record and not a 'yes man' album (which is what I felt happened with 'Born To Die').  Second, if she was not happy with the last work and wanted to work on the next album so soon, why release the last album?  But that is just me second guessing Ms Del Rey and it is not for me to say what her reasons are behind the quick turnaround; maybe she did not want to be outside of the public attention for too long.  Now this album was produced by Ms Del Rey, Kieron Menzies & Rick Nowels; now whilst I usually hate multi-production albums, I have hopes for this one.  For starters, they produce all the songs together.  So the album is a shared vision, there is an agreed template to the album.  I am not expecting a happy album, the cover is too bright and Ms Del Rey does like to subversive with the audience and their expectation.  Time to see how the honeymoon has turned out to be......

The title track "Honeymoon" starts the album with a sea of strings and a much clearer production sound to the record, the warm almost grunge overtones of 'Ultraviolence' have been swept to the side; but the music itself is very similar in the fact that it is darker than a coal cellar at midnight during a power cut, there is no light here and it is the first track. The music reminds me of the song "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" by Nancy Sinatra, it has that lamented and stylised sound that sounds like heartbreak incarnate.  It is slow beginning, but it is still a beautiful number none the less.  "Music to Watch Boys To" has a title that sounds like it should be played in Ibiza and nightclubs (and I am sure there will be a club mix at some point), but this song sounds like it was crafted from the same mine as "Sad Girl" from 'Ultraviolence'.  It is number to become lost in, it is another stylised piece of music that sounds like a Bond theme in all but name.  It is a slow decent into her mind state and it has been given high praise by her fans.  I am still struggling with the song though, it just does not have the dramatic change of gear to make the move from verse to chorus really stand out for me.  It just drifts there and the change does not hit the spot, it is almost there but still not close enough.  "Terrence Loves You" is the third song, it has been stated as her favourite of the album because it is jazzy.  There is fierce debate about what the lyrics are all about and who Terrence is, personally I think it might be about incidents in her life and the names have been changed to save the identity of those involved.  I am not seeing the jazz, I am hearing a more blues without the guitars for my tastes and a dose of Hollyweird as well.  It is a beautiful number, there is more soul to this than "Music to Watch Boys To" as there is a defined progression between the bridges/chorus from the verses.  A much better song.  "God Knows I Tried" seems to be a song about getting what you want and then finding out the price for it was yourself, mirroring what Ms Del Rey had to do to achieve the success she had once strived for.  The song pleading for mercy to the ongoing onslaught, wishing for clemency to her current plight.  It is another well-crafted song, it cannot be denied and the drama of the number is not to be understated.  At this point of the album though, there has been little deviation to the songs and it have easily been the same song performed four times.

As if reading this herself, "High By The Beach" has a little bit more about it, with a trip-hop chill out feeling the song sounds like another nightmare dream going wrong.  The lyrics about requiring an escape from the world and solitude are very compelling, but the music is not hitting those high spots that she can usually achieve; it is becoming a familiar pattern with this record and not one that I care for.  "Freak" is a dark love sonnet requesting a lover to follow Ms Del Rey to California and living out their lives in a carefree manner which would lead to some idyllic paradise for them, all to a chill out backdrop that contains off-kilt drum and bass with another daydream vocal delivery.  It is the first song on this album which has actually delivers something different to the rest of the world on the record, it is the first song which feels and sounds complete to these ears.  It is about time that there was a track like this on the record, it really needed a kick in the arse. "Art Deco" is the seventh track of the album which is allegedly about Ms Del Rey's close friend, Azealia Banks.  It is another song which can only be described as downbeat, but the lyrics are all about being the light of the party and having fun.  With repeated listens, it does have a small charm and plays to Lana Del Rey's strengths; however it does not change the album for me and it is starting to get a little bit sour for me.  Track eight is called "Burnt Norton - Interlude" and it is a track with a spoken word poem originally by T.S. Elliot and is one minute and twenty two seconds long, with a strange ambient noise piece in the background.  This is one of the better tracks on the album, it has a meaning and it does not sound like a rainy Tuesday in Ipswich.  "Religion" is another song which actually makes a hell of a lot of sense, a love song where she compares a relationship to faith and devotion of the Holy Communion.  It sounds as if there is passion behind this song and whilst the music is still that happy, jolly sound that has peppered this album (sense the tone people), it is a plus point on this song.  It has the epic sound that was used on the song "Born to Die", it has a lot more depth than other songs on this album and it at least has a soul about it...even with all the blow job references about her being on her knees.

"Salvatore" is another song which works better due to being as dark as a blackout in a coal mine; it has a military beat to the drums and musically is akin to some of the slower songs by Frank Sinatra. The lyrics could be a mirror device as she is singing about something very personal, with each line having a secret meaning; it could be about the 1940's black market for American military goods in Cyprus as it has been suggested in places; it could be about an ice cream business in Baltimore.  Either way, with its stylised sound and open lyrics, it is another moment on this album which makes more sense due to its daydream lyrical content. "The Blackest Day" deals with the various stages of a break up, from the initial denial, the anger and then the ultimate acceptance/freedom.  Once more, we are in one of the moments of the album which (for obvious reasons) sounds like the world is falling apart.  It is another song which is well composed and her voice sounds heart-breaking, but it is not hitting those marks which it is aiming for.  It feels like a college drama student’s first attempt at poetry for their a-levels, it just does not work and feels very symbolic for the album as a whole.  "24" is the track that a lot of people have been talking about, this is the song which people have assumed is the song which was a possible James Bond theme.  This is because she has stated in an interview that her failed song is on this album and it is the most obvious Bond number, but it really could have been any of the other tracks if we are honest.  I am not too sure if it would have made a good Bond song, but it is one of the best tracks of the album.  It sounds complete and (most importantly) as if there has been some happiness in the world during the last few years.  The penultimate song is "Swan Song", it is a song about wanting to escape everything, about promising to give up a career and spending their days in paradise.  By now, you know the mood of the song is dark and the music has not heard of daylight.  It is in line with the rest of the album, it is filled with apprehensive music and low, sombre tones; it is making me wonder why it is on the album, but more on that in a bit.  Ending the album is the cover of the Nina Simone song "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", it is a lovely song which is in tone with the album and it shows the albums flaws very clearly.  It is a cut above the rest of the record, it is the right length and it does not outstay its welcome.  It is the track of the album, it brings the curtain down and a sense of relief crashes over me.

I have a lot of issues with this album which I will get out of the way first:

1) Lana Del Rey needs someone who can challenge her and has the ability to stand up to her.  This album suffers from the lack of someone who is willing to be in that role and it shows; the album is not badly produced as the music sounds wonderful, but she needs someone outside herself to give her an outside perspective to make the music even better.  I had hoped that Messrs Menzies & Nowels would do this, sadly this has not turned out to be the case.

2) A lot of these songs are over long, if you can say it in three minutes then reduce it from five minutes.

3) There is too many tracks here as well, it could have been done in ten and made for a much more streamlined record and a very miserable EP.

4) When the best things on the record are a poem to an interlude and a vintage cover - warning.

5) Why is every song as happy and welcome as a fart in a wet suit?

Now that being said, I cannot fault the quality of the material - the girl can sing and if this is her vision for herself than more power to her; but her last album 'Ultraviolence' for me was the pinnacle of what she has so far achieved and this does not even touch that album.  If I am honest, it is slightly better than 'Born to Die' but only just.  I want to like this as a lot of my friends are raving about it, but it is too dark for my tastes (who'd have thought that).  You cannot stay in the rain all the time, sometimes you need to see the sunshine.

6 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

Top track - Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Lana Del Rey website here

You can follow the activities of Lana Del Rey on Facebook here

You can stream Honeymoon on Spotify here

You can stream Honeymoon on Deezer here

You can stream Honeymoon on Tidal here

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