Album review: MARINA – LOVE

John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.
John Preston

Marina and the Diamonds now goes by the name MARINA. She has always just been Welsh born singer-songwriter Marina Lambrini Diamandis.

Marina and the Diamonds’ debut, The Family Jewels, came out in 2010 which was the year after La Roux and Little Boots also showcased their first full-length records. It was an exciting time for brilliant and nuanced synth-pop from new and talented artists.

Marina and the Diamonds has enjoyed some chart success over the last decade, amassed a large following. With LOVE + FEAR being her fourth album, Marina has found longevity in a cliché, ruthless and brutal industry.

Initially intended to be one album, Diamandis surprise-dropped the LOVE half of LOVE + FEAR (consisting of eight songs), with the FEAR portion to follow in the next three weeks.

Whether this was always intended or is a last-minute marketing decision remains unknown but experiencing just one part without the contrasting act may have been a mistake.

It’s fair to say that songs on LOVE are the most straightforward, or to be less kind, basic, of Diamandis’ ambitious discography to date. All of her previous albums have been at least a little interesting. The Family Jewels in particular was overly kooky at times, but also funny, intelligent and touching. LOVE in comparison is a step-back emotionally – certainly odd for a record that is explicitly about emotions – and often frustratingly banal and lacking in any depth.

MARINA without the diamonds craves the simple life. Searching for happiness when all she needed was peace and, looking at the video for the insipid ear-worm ‘Orange Trees’, a nice holiday in the sun with her healthy looking friends. She’s jealous of birds and squirrels (‘Handmade Heaven’) and on the at least funky ‘Enjoy Your Life’ the message is smile!, it might have happened but you can still have a lovely life.

‘To Be Human’ is a very good song – Diamandis’ vocals are beautifully precise and confident – but the clunky political points being made are embarrassing. Musically this is chart-friendly stuff but utterly inoffensive, and it’s only the chilly and bold electronics of final track ‘End of the Earth’ where Diamandis breaks through the mundanity of the tracks that proceed it.

LOVE is only half of the story though, so for now MARINA can be given the benefit of the doubt in the hope that FEAR resets her progress as a potentially great pop-star.