First lady of louche

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

LANA DEL RAY Ul­travi­o­lence Poly­dor ★★★★

There’s been none of the usual pre-al­bum re­lease on­line chat­ter for Lana Del Ray’s sec­ond al­bum, her fol­low-up to 2012’s left-of-field but sur­pris­ingly, res­o­lutely commercial de­but, Born to Die. This means we’re ap­proach­ing Ul­travi­o­lence with lit­tle or no pre­con­ceived no­tions, other than our own prej­u­dices re­gard­ing Del Ray: her au­then­tic­ity (or lack of), and her sta­tus as a kind of role model for bruised or dam­aged goods.

Ul­travi­o­lence (per­haps too typ­i­cal and unironic a ti­tle for such a self-aware artist) sees Del Rey em­ploy, with just a few ex­tra frills, the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it ap­proach. Such a tac­tic might not sat­isfy those who don’t view the singer as the best thing since sliced bread. But for those of us who reckon she is the real deal, as well as the only fe­male song-writer of re­cent times to put a mir­ror up to the queasy un­der­belly of what a smart woman has to put up with in try­ing to suc­ceed in a male­dom­i­nated in­dus­try, then Ul­travi­o­lence is ex­tremely im­pres­sive.

Of course, songs with ti­tles such as Fucked My Way Up to the Top, Cruel World, Sad Girl, Pretty When You Cry, Money Power Glory and The Other Woman tell their own the­matic tales. Lit­tle has changed stylis­ti­cally. Bar some un­nec­es­sary (and frankly un­seemly) squalls of rawk gui­tar on Shades of Cool and Money Power Glory, the mood rarely changes be­yond un­easy Blue Vel­vet- type at­mo­spher­ics and the kind of lonely and louche torch bal­lads that ref­er­ence 1950s noir vo­cal­ists such as Julie Lon­don.

Do we learn any­thing about Lana Del Ray here? Is her world­view re­ally so wrapped up in the stupid sleaze and the sticky sor­did? Is it a schtick that she continues to beat us around the head with in the hope that we’ll sub­mit? Maybe. Maybe not.

What seems cer­tain is that what­ever she re­ally is, or what­ever she does in her cho­sen mi­lieu, Del Ray is the best at it. lanadel­ray.com

Down­load: Cruel World, Sad Girl, Fucked My Way Up to the Top, Old Money

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