Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #155 - Marina and the Diamonds, "Electra Heart"

Marina brings me out in brain hives. The main hive blisters on my hippocampus in the form of the words "spoilt idiot" and it stings every time I hear her quasi-portentous bellow trumpet more empty ideas about how loaded with hollow self-belief she is.

"Bubblegum Bitch" is the opening track and it covers pretty much everything one needs to know. Faux rebellious watered-down guitar sound to signify Danger with a capital dilletante. The title is on the money, pop posturing. Now, I know pop isn't reality; nothing is. But if you're all about celebrating yourself, then I don't see how plate armour of aggressive positioning is celebrating anything by the cult of cunty behaviour. (Would I be this harsh about an album like this about a guy? Are there any albums by men like this? Nine Inch Nails perhaps. I need to be more rigorous in examining my indie man attitudes.)

"I guess you could say my life's a mess/But I'm still looking pretty in this dress." There's that same fat streak of self-loathing that runs through Lana del Ray, but whereas her album is an exercise in Daddy's Girl masochism, Marina turns all the thorns onto the outside. On the first few tracks at least. The sounds aren't a million miles from LDR either. And the album is too long, as so many of the tracks-for-cash albums either. Tone it down to twelve tracks and the message is cleaner. (Am I being oppressive?)

 "Power & Control" is all about looks and being a piece of art. That sums up a lot, doesn't it? "Living Dead", "Fear and Loathing" - on and on the titles come. "Wish I'd been a prom queen/Fighting for the title/Stead of being sixteen/And burning up a bible/Feeling super, super, super suicidal." I'm starting to feel bad about being so sniffy about her lyrical angle and this must connect with thousands of people. It's harsh perhaps to barrack folk for pumping out cliche after cliche when they perhaps cling to those cliches for dear identity and those cliches sling their legs out of bed in the morning. But it adds nothing and the misery beneath lies untouched.

"Valley of the Dolls" includes a line about "Living with identities/That do not belong to me", which might be concerning narrower models of femininity (and would it be feeble-minded to suggest a south Wales connection?); but works for the various roles she picks up across the album: "Homewrecker", "Primadonna" et cetera. The defensiveness of "Hypocrates" marks out a position of you-can't-tell-me-what-to-do; but it seems the conditioning has been fully internalised. On "Fear and Loathing" she says that she wants to feel like she's "floating/Rather than constantly exploding", reflected in the frozen, cloudy synth swirls. Rather than celebrating existence and vitality, she wants to float off into non-existent weightlessness. The album has drifted from feisty to barbituate deathwish - as her confidence ebbs away perhaps into mumbling and morse code noises?

There is an afterlife on the album though. "Radioactive" runs the same housey keyboard stabs that are packing the discos in all around the weekends and that drum pattern that suggests whirling around on the dancefloor in a gypsy abandon. Radio-friendly in both title and sound. It's the horny disco hit about "nuclear love" and losing control. "Sex Yeah" questions the idea that sex give you freedom: "If women were religiously/Recognised sexually/We wouldn't have to feel the need/To show our ass/It's to feel free." But I think this whole album resonates with the failure of the project for freedom.

Rating: Doom out of Identity Battles

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