Lana del Rey – Honeymoon (4 stars)

Lana del Rey: Honeymoon

Del Rey’s latest album is swathed in mystery and Hollywood glamour

There’s a certain impudence to the title of Lana Del Rey’s fourth album (her third in the public spotlight). Lana is, after all, not entirely real; a fabrication of singer-songwriter Lizzy Grant, her edgily funereal persona relies on a suspension of disbelief regarding the emotional honesty of the work, coupled with an acceptance that the public persona doesn’t have to tie up to the artist creating the work. There is, in short, a sense that everyone will twig to the perceived gimmickry involved one day, and her musical honeymoon will be over.

But how much of this persona is Del Rey and how much is Grant remains nebulous, and that’s part of the appeal. Perhaps her greatest achievement is lending a touch of old-fashioned Hollywood mystique to what she does, a rarity in these times, thanks to the scarcity of her interviews and the unknowability she cultivates as a performer. Honeymoon evokes a stately but bruised sense of LA trash and glamour to resonate with any fan of David Lynch. It’s both spectacularly one-note and entirely in control of its message.

The opening strings screech in as slowly as a John Barry orchestra on heavy medication. ‘We both know that it’s not fashionable to love me,’ Del Rey intones heavily on the title track, strings and vocals swooning in harmony, then taking a discordant downward tone: ‘We both know the history of violence that surrounds you / but I’m not scared.’ Darkness, dangerous romance and an intertwined sense of lust and dismay gnaw at the edges of this record.

‘Music To Watch Boys To’ croons along in similar fashion – almost everything here does, in fact – as she sighs ‘I like you a lot / so I do what you want’ over the chorus. It seems to send an overtly non-feminist message, but again, it’s all about the ambiguity. Is she playing the role of an easily-led ingénue, or claiming her right to courtship in any way she sees fit? Again, the deliberate lack of definition is delicious. ‘I know what only the girls know…’ she breathes a few lines later, teasing the listener with the suggestion she’s in complete command.

Honeymoon is one long suite played out with an abiding sense of stoned melancholy, from the slowed-down Bond theme ‘Terrence Loves You’, diversion into David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ included, to the glistening hip-hop stride of ‘High By the Beach’ and the rippling electro wash of ‘Art Deco’. She slips into Italian on ‘Salvatore’, and affects an increasingly dramatic, elegiac sensibility on later tracks like ‘24’ and ‘Swan Song’.

There are two ‘covers’, of sorts, here; Del Rey reading TS Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’ over an ebbing ambient soundtrack is the only piece which is truly sonically different from the others, while Nina Simone’s ‘Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ has been thoroughly Del Rey-ised, its lyric a somewhat ironic comment from an artist who plays with the obfuscation of her own image so astutely. It’s an album which demands the listener be in a certain mood to appreciate it, and buy into the myth or otherwise of Lana Del Rey – but that she has so effectively kept that myth purring along sets her satisfyingly apart.

Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey is out on Interscope/Polydor now.

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