Lana Del Rey’s first two albums were originally all I knew from the artist, but Blue Banisters, her second outing this year, piqued my interest. Sounds like a sad interior decorating firm, who could resist?
Eager to hear how she had adjusted her sound in the last nine years, I plugged in my favourite earphones – my only ones, in fact – and clicked Text Book, the first song. I actually didn’t plug them in either, they’re wireless. It just sounds better to plug something in – but I digress.
The name was perfect. It was as if someone mashed her songs together and got the average. Her textbook dreamy tones filled my brain, but something irked me. Despite now living in a world where a cough could be considered a war crime, Del Rey’s latest is remarkably familiar.
In other words, if you had a lust for old Lana, this tickles your ear canals in much the same way as her last six (!) albums did. And if you thought she was samey and dull, you can dump Blue Banisters on your mental scrapheap, along with every variation of rice pudding Ambrosia makes.
Unfortunately, I can’t talk about Lana without mentioning the contrived stage persona. She’s so faux chill that she can’t stand up for her album cover. And the pout. It’s like someone has just told her Santa Claus is a white supremacist.
The only evidence we have that she’s a relatable human and not an overly serious song robot are some Covid-kilo inspired lyrics about not fitting into her bathing suit anymore.
If You Lie Down With Me and Violets for Roses could have come from any of her albums. The woozy, dramatic feel is a well-trodden route at this stage, with waymarker posts.
Seemingly Del Rey has been paralysed by her success, afraid of messing with the retro melancholia that saw her reach stardom. It’s understandable, but a shame. Experimenting is how she evolved from her previous stage name – and actual name – Lizzy Grant. I think she can do it again.
That doesn’t mean the album is bad though. Not even close. It shimmers in her usual acoustic haze, but the highlights are when Del Rey ventures out and does a nixer with The Last Shadow Puppets. Tunes like Thunder and Dealer are the creative output of this combo, and their higher energy makes them standouts.
Blue Banisters is like exploring a beautiful film set. Captivating and twee but in an utterly manufactured way. Like a film, if you allow yourself to get lost, it can be wonderful. But that’s a lot harder when you’ve seen it all before.