A year ago we left Lana like a jilted lover. She had moved from that beguiling image of the ‘gangsta Nancy Sinatra’ – a souped up bubblegum caricature of a made-up Hollywood – to the intense vodka and Xanax blues of the bruising Ultraviolence, an album infected with nicotine and nocturnal tears. In amongst the Kohl black atmosphere a new Lana emerged, one with an ice-cold blood stream laced with grit that her audience made up of generation Kimye failed to connect with. Ultraviolence, a collaboration with Black Key’s auteur Dan Auerbach was layered and experimental, pushing Del Rey into a rougher musical terrain, messing up her beauty queen bouffant with the addition of twanging Charlie Feathers guitars and ghostly effected vocals. Ultimately Ultraviolence was smothered at birth, after the hypnotic single ‘West Coast’ and a tour that consisted of mostly tracks from Born to Die & its Paradise edition, it was left out in the rain, like a forgotten baby doll – its face peeling away from neglect.
Now, after this seedy de-tour Lana is moving back towards the Klieg light glare of empty glamour. Honeymoon, as the artist has stated herself, echoes the more lush, string drenched tunes from her debut. Ditching big-name collaborators to produce the album herself with assistance from friends Rick Nowels and Kieron Menzies, it’s a more straightforward affair.
It may begin with her trademark crafty sense of knowingness as she delivers the opening line “We both know that it’s not fashionable to love me” in a tone more deadpan than Jack Dee, but the thrilling inventiveness and sharpness of her previous efforts seem to have been drowned in a lustful fever. The crazed ex-lovers, mistresses and bitter tales from Ultraviolence have been muted, replaced by dreamy Stepford wives cooing about endless love. The peaches and cream delivery is as luscious and haunting as ever on tracks like the captivating, Bowie quoting, saxophone sprinkled ‘Terrance Loves You’ and the chanteuse tease of ‘God Knows I Tried’, but these dazzling moments are dulled by the glacial pace of the album as whole.
Whilst the first half of the album may glide along in the familiar silky smoothness we’ve grown accustomed to, it offers little in the way of ingenuity or excitement, passing by in an indulgent post-coital yawn. Del Rey’s debut Born to Die may have been a dressing up box with Lana trying on several unsuitable outfits but zingy tracks like ‘National Anthem’ and ‘Radio’ offered a much needed change of pace, a lighter pop element hidden behind the heavy velvet drapes of her more serious efforts. The studied cool of Paradise had chinks of light with the whimsical ‘Bel Air’ and even Ultraviolence with the demented ‘Florida Kilos’ and the hiccupping delight of ‘Brooklyn Baby’ breaking up the storm clouds. By contrast, Honeymoon remains almost static, enmeshed in a hazy barbiturate fug of epic love songs stretched to their limits with only the sparky, bad-girl brilliance of ‘High by the Beach’ truly shaking up this sugar-coma.
The trippy spoken word ‘Burnt Norton’ interlude may feel like it’s a corridor leading into somewhere else, the aural landscape of the intoxicating, Tennessee William’s inflected ‘Ride’ or the Whitman referencing short film ‘Tropico’ but disappointingly offers up more of the same.
‘24’ is like a calculated bid for the Bond theme tune, all breathy vocals, supper club orchestration and mentions of murder and wrong ‘uns but it ultimately feels like a track written for a cheap cliché-ridden Lana imitator. ‘Salvatore’ may have that bizarre bewitching melancholy with its siren-yodel chorus, sinewy guitars and an eerie sample of a weeping man but the spell is broken and utterly ruined by Lana trilling about ‘soft ice-cream’ like an over-excited nana on a day trip.
When Lana first emerged in her Veronica Lake curls as a fully-formed pop star, the sensuous sophistication of her songs of doomed romance and apathy were what set her apart from her ass-waggling, trash talking contemporaries. Now, with the arrival of the soft-core, soft-focus, soft- ice-cream, Emmanuelle–style soundtrack of Honeymoon, she is in danger of repeating the once charming conjurors’ trick too many times to not only have dedicated fans grow weary, but also that listless audience she acquired who await the inevitable Friday night ‘banger’ remix. Disappearing out of view with a sombre reading of Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, it’s a distracting holiday but let’s hope that Lana’s honeymoon isn’t truly over.