Front cover of ‘Honeymoon’
by Ed Biggs
Faded Hollywood glamour, tales of doomed runaways, naivety and shattered dreams… pretty much everything you need to know about Lana Del Rey’s third album Honeymoon is communicated to you by its bleached-out, garish cover art. It comes barely a year after her quite wonderful second effort Ultraviolence, which smoothed over the shortcomings of her 2012 debut Born To Die. Where her first made her seem like a dilettante, and gloriously over-reached in search of a narrative, Ultraviolence settled on one image and constructed a beautifully panoramic album from solid foundations, depicting a world full of violent boyfriends, flawed romances and waifish characters holding things together against all odds. If you thought that was an artistic cul-de-sac, think again: Del Rey has travelled even further down that road for her third record, and quite incredibly it manages to mine that same rich seam of inspiration without exhausting her creativity.
Be under no illusion: Honeymoon is an exercise in manipulation. Del Rey knows exactly what she’s doing, but it’s testament to her craftsmanship (both in terms of the songs and the image of herself that she’s selling to you) that such a singularly sorrowful and, at 65 minutes, long and potentially overbearing record rarely drags on the listener. We open with the title track, with the same noir-ish undercurrents and sepia tones as Ultraviolence, as Lana coos “our honeymoon / say you want me too” over weeping, filmic strings. In her universe, romance is not sought for idyllic reasons but in order to service an addiction, to fill a void because the protagonist can’t cope without it. The gossamer-thin drum programming on single ‘High By The Beach’ is possibly the most urgent moment on Honeymoon, and it’s a style replicated throughout, except for the mighty thump on the swelling, quasi-Bond theme of ‘24’. Del Rey was at one point rumoured to record the theme for Spectre, btw, and with this song it’s very easy to imagine her having done so.
Several of the tracks take sizeable risks with their skeletal arrangements, but Del Rey is an excellent storyteller and scene-setter and is therefore able to sweep the listener along with her, suspending your natural disbelief and lowering your critical guard. The only embellishment on ‘Music To Watch Boys To’ is the barest flourish of flutes; the same goes for the lazy Spanish guitar lick on ‘God Knows I Tried’ and the sighing clarinets of ‘Art Deco’. Newest single ‘Terrence Loves You’ borrows quotations from Bowie and sets them to mournful piano and typically moping lyrics like “I don’t matter to anyone”, as Del Rey immerses herself in her doomed heroine character. The grandiose, supremely sad ‘The Blackest Day’ channels the spirit of Billie Holiday, and is one of several such highlights.
Heroic in its scope and ambition, impeccably planned and executed, but falling just short of its predecessor, on this album Del Rey has found even more territory to cover in the musical landscape, and her ability to conjure so much from such minimalist building blocks is a continuing marvel. Honeymoon may well come to be seen as an overindulgence in years to come, an excuse for its creator to wallow in the luxuriously sad image that she’d crafted for herself for a little bit longer before moving on to pastures new. We know it’s an image, a clever sell, but nobody can doubt her commitment to the bit. (7/10)
Listen to Honeymoon here!
Tags: album, Ed Biggs, Honeymoon, Lana Del Rey, Lizzy Grant, review
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