wed 22/09/2021

Album: Lana Del Rey - Chemtrails Over the Country Club | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Lana Del Rey - Chemtrails Over the Country Club

Album: Lana Del Rey - Chemtrails Over the Country Club

More cinematic confessionals from Pop Art queen

Lana Del Rey has turned pop’s volume down, returning hushed intimacy to the music’s heart.

Her collaborator Jack Antonoff was also heavily involved in Taylor Swift’s Folklore reinvention, but Del Rey’s idea of Americana remains very different. Its emotional thread is again pulled tight by mid-20th century, glamorous iconography, and fame and love met with equal, glassy passion.

Del Rey has found a new way to be post-modern, decades after the condition became too total to be mentioned. She is authentically artificial, honestly romantic, a self-conscious construct lit with her voice’s sensual glow, living inside her music even as the listener can step around it like an Edward Hopper painting, or become immersed as in one of Nicholas Ray’s heightened 1950s films, which hovered on the edge of hysteria and camp but kept a pitch of true passion. Those who wander within, these versions of Lana and her friends, are meanwhile recognisably modern, as if stepping into the shoes of Natalie Wood and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, while keeping antic, current freedoms. The glamorous past is masochistically ached for, and played with, autobiography a flitting ghost.

Nothing tops opener “White Dress”, a dreamy flashback to a waitressing job at a Florida music business conference. “I only mention it because it was such a scene/And I felt seen,” Del Rey sings of this teen summer. She races at lines while the piano’s tempo stays unmoved, and ends them with husky gasps, like her thoughts are whiting-out. This begins a lushly intimate album, rarely rising past closely miked piano and drum-kit, as if at a jazz club. The glorious excess of Norman Fucking Rockwell’s 9½ minute “Venice Bitch” isn’t touched.

Hip-hop exists here the way rave did for Noel Gallagher, as a cultural and sonic given, present in the hints of phasing and vocoder warps, echoing depth of field, and “Tulsa Jesus Freak”, where “the stores are all closed/And the kids in the hoodies they dance super-slow”. Oasis meanwhile slip into “Wild At Heart” and “Dark But Just a Game” with the same Morning Glory-like guitar phrases heard on Norman Fucking Rockwell. Rockwell’s reference to Del Rey as a “candle in the wind” is also repeated twice, and camera flashes cause car crashes, Marilyn and Diana’s fates flames to be danced into, while insulated, she hopes, by self-awareness. Metaphysics student (and philosophy grad) Del Rey also bonds with those who like her talk to God, her widescreen vision cosmic or maybe, like Swift now, simply sunk into nature.

She drifts through America, from the title track’s suburban feminine languor to the Midwest dust and neon of “Tulsa Jesus Freak” and “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”, and the “Louisiana two-step” of “Dance Till We Die”. “Yosemite” is a Springsteen-esque slow-burner, brushed with Morricone brass, and “Breaking Up Slowly” steel guitar country, refusing the fate of “Tammy Wynette” as art is considered (“Will he still love me after this song?”), not consuming. She mentions “covering Joni”, then “For Free” does so. This Mitchell song in which a rock star steps out of her plush hotel to envy a Mr. Bojangles-like busker proves just as hokey and heartfelt as Del Rey’s own, and is sung with poised phrasing and power.

Bruce is a better comparison than Joni. Though relentlessly lauded for his authenticity, the Boss made his name with Born to Run's nostalgic pop bombast, and has always been more romantic than realist. Dylan, too, leaves you guessing where his heart lies. In symbiotic collaboration with Antonoff, these beautifully rendered pop tunes construct Del Rey’s artistic reality, as honestly as she knows how.

She is authentically artificial, honestly romantic, a self-conscious construct lit with her voice’s sensual glow

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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