Love came first and now MARINA has released the remaining Fear half of her fourth album, Love + Fear. In pre-release interviews Marina Diamandis, previously Marina and The Diamonds, claimed that the two parts differed in sound significantly but anyone expecting any real departure musically or even lyrically from the underwhelming Love will find themselves disappointed.
Fear starts strongly enough with a more robust introduction to Diamandis’ supposedly darker side. But after the urgency of second track ‘Life Is Strange’, she slips back into the barely there, light-as-air pop-scapes that dominated the lacklustre Love.
This realisation can’t come as anything other than a letdown. This is a singer who so successfully presented herself as an idiosyncratic and uninhibited performer, and who has now taken a turn that renders her oddly corporate and inoffensive.
It seems then that Diamandis’ recent studies at Birkbeck University to read psychology led to a realisation that ‘simple and clean’ is good and ‘confused and chaotic’ is bad, and that this has informed her current musical direction considerably in wide-reaching ways. It’s certainly possible to hear the potential in songs like the Broods-featuring ‘Emotional Machine’ but the Sam de Jong production is listless when it should convince of its sadness with a considerable force. Instead it just floats by, prettily, instead of being the sad banger it’s clearly destined to be.
‘Too Afraid’, another de Jong production, fares much better and is one of the most memorable tracks on the entire album. It fits very much in the mould of a classic Marina and The Diamonds ballad: wistful, relatable and beautifully sung. ‘No More Suckers’, meanwhile, berates the terrible people that eat Marina’s food and mess with the order of her towel collection – a Marie Kondo suburban nightmare, indeed!
Within the over-long 16-track list there is a six-track EP of clearly personal and wonderfully performed songs. Disposable trop-bops, clunky self help and political commentary – in short, a general lack of solid songwriting and generic and underwhelming sonic choices – don’t fit with Marina and The Diamonds’ sharply satirical, former pop glory.
Love + Fear presents itself as having two sides but only ends up being two dimensional, with MARINA sadly stranded somewhere in its centre.