Music

Lana Del Rey, Chemtrails Over the Country Club, review: a beautiful bid for freedom


When Lana Del Rey plays live, there often comes a point when she will lie down on the stage. It is choreographed, obviously – she’s not just dipping out for a nap. But it is a strange 2D thing to do in a 3D world: the audience is left looking at the soles of her feet, hearing her voice floating up from the floor. Chemtrails Over the Country Club has the same kind of effect; it’s as though Del Rey wants to be heard without having to deal with the fall-out of having been heard.

Where once she had a lust for life, now she seems to have a desire for escape, whether that’s into the past or into the wilds of America. She rejects her earlier romanticisation of the tragic starlet figure but still channels a bit of Blanche DuBois as she clings to the kindness of others.

The album opens with “White Dress”, a rolling reminiscence about a time when she was Elizabeth not Lana, which she sings right at the top of her range. It’s not a strain to listen to, but you can hear her reaching into those upper registers as though she’s given everything she has and still feels she has to give more.

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She has always been one for a lyric that sounds as if it has been ripped from my rough note book circa 2002 (“I love you lots like polka dots” in “Wild at Heart”), but here they are couched in gorgeous harmonies and beguiling musical through-lines dissipating like vapour as soon as you register them.

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On “Tulsa Jesus Freak”, a song that finds religion at the bar and in the bedroom, she experiments with a bit of gloriously subtle autotune, while “Dark But Just a Game” is excellent, shimmying into a beat as she sings clear of reverb over a clean electric piano line. It whips itself up into discord then back into that unnatural cleanliness; there’s something very Fiona Apple about it and it suits Del Rey’s self-proclaimed wildness at heart.

The album peters off in the final few songs, but the first half is endlessly listenable. She might want to escape from fame but, fortunately for us, she can’t.



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