Ultraviolence: Lana Del Rey Album Review

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Remember the great musical non-debate that once raged over Lizzie Grant, aka Lana Del Rey? A supposedly fickle wannabe, who, having tried the dressed-down, singer-songwriter approach, decided to trick the world with a carefully constructed pop persona. It subsided of course, in the face of the unassailable tunes of Born to Die. But what this sequel reveals is just how wrong her original accusers got it: Del Rey’s problem isn’t fickleness, but over-consistency.

Which is to say that Ultraviolence is more of the same, but less. Musically, talk has focused on the recruitment of the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach as producer and the promise of a rawkier Del Rey. And in this respect, “Cruel World” is a brilliant, compelling opening salvo: a swirling psych-rock stomp daubed with a touch of Warpaint. But it’s also a red herring: the odd guitar workout aside, from there on in we’re broadly in the Lynchian ballad mode of yore – all twangs, strings, shuffling beats and ethereal yearning; only without the killer hooks this time, the atmosphere turns from sensual to soporific, while novelty is nipped in the bud: the promisingly uptempo, Fleetwood Mac-like “West Coast”, for example, grinds to a halt on a chorus of predictable, coo-ed languor.

And then there are the lyrics. On Born to Die Del Rey’s dead-eyed moll-playing made for some interesting character drama. But here it has nowhere left to run, and the quasi-transgressive mixture of hopeless passivity and coquettish sexuality running through songs such as “Sad Girl” (“I’m a sad girl/ I’m a bad girl”) feels ever more tired and uninspired.

Beyond a second album, what Lana really needs is a second act. 

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