Thundering, stellar electronic...magnetic, glacial vocals...whip-smart, womanly, lyrical wit...jokes as good as 'The Valley of The Lolls'...
Marina and The Diamonds second album, 'Electra Heart', is not so much a creative leap forward, more an Olympian pole-vault over the bar of talented-newcomer into the global amphitheatre of a cultivated Classic. Two years on from her top 5 debut 'The Family Jewels' (300,000 copies sold), the self-styled avant-garde “D.I.Y artist” has detonated her own experimental past and landed feet first in the future with 'Electra Heart', a stunningly ambitious, seamless, cohesive and confident sonic pulsar spinning between electro-pop euphoria and come-down melancholia. The album is produced by a cache of old school and A-List producers: Dr Luke (Katy Perry) and Liam Howe (Sneaker Pimps) but mostly (9 out of 12 songs) Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, Kylie) and Rick Nowels (Madonna, Stevie Nicks, Lykke Li). A hook-packed stunner with the sonic ambition of a one-woman Depeche Mode, her onetime theatrical vocals now effortlessly soar between spectral, commanding and towering power-pop, finding her vocal identity in an album about a loss of it.
“I wanted to challenge myself, I have consciously done everything I set out not to, originally” says Marina. “Sing about Love. Work in the world of American Pop. Co-write. It was a really enjoyable period in my life. The music has energy and aggression and my vocals are much more controlled and detached… It's lyrically quite bitter, but comically so. I love black humour".
'Electra Heart' is a thematic riot, a British Eccentric, 21st Century concept caper where the album title represents a series of female archetypes, not so much an alter-ego as a beautifully-constructed prism, through which Marina projects a series of meticulously-realised female characters as a foil for telling her story, the one about mismatched lovers.
“'Electra Heart' is an Ode to dysfunctional love,” she explains. “I based the project around character types commonly found in love stories, film and theatre. I guess it was a way of dealing with the embarrassment that, for the first time in my life, I got 'played'. Rejection is a universally embarrassing topic and Electra Heart is my response to that, creating character types to enable me to express personal experiences I would never confess in real life. Weakness and defeat in love are things I don't particularly want talk about, so I guess I've written a whole album about it. Whatever an artist does not want to admit, that is what the artist writes about. It's a very frank album but hopefully funny too”
The songs, mostly recorded in L.A in 2011, were written on-the-road through America in 2010, teased into life on Marina's £100 keyboard or sung into her lap-top in the back of her tour-bus bedroom, “watching the corn fields flying by and making sense of the message that American culture employs; that you can be anyone and do anything, go anywhere and lose yourself- start afresh and forget whatever the truth is”. The song titles tell the story - from throbbing first single 'Primadonna' to the robo-pop of 'Bubblegum Bitch' to the haughty spoken-word soliloquies of 'Homewrecker' – a fantasy roll-call of “fairly vengeful characters”. These are inspired by her love for American Pop culture's artifice, “I am attracted to emptiness, to the fake in us. Aside from love, perception and deception are central themes in "Electra Heart", that's why I changed my hair- because the archetypal star is always blonde". She says " I used to think of the female superstars, Marilyn, Madonna, Britney Spears, and wonder if they would have had the same career paths if they had been brunettes” and her uncharacteristic behaviour in a brief but life-altering relationship, where she changed herself to comply with a boy's ideals to win his heart. “The type of girl who maintains a level of artifice and illusion in order to hold his intrigue. I am nothing like that. I was sad to pretend I was someone else all the time”.
Hence the many faces of 'Electra Heart' and her revolving door persona. It's also a visual project, with vast, camp and cerebral touchstones as befits her analytical brain: “Cindy Sherman, Jenny Holzer, Dolly Parton, Chuck Pahlaniuk, Madonna, Jayne Mansfield's Pink Palace, Valley of the Dolls, Pierre Et Gilles, Britney Spears, Love... Boys... Fear.” She's also created a website, 'The: Archetypes', featuring images of 'Electra Heart' split into four character-type categories: "The Homewrecker", "Su-Barbie-A", "Teen Idles" and "Stars & Queens". All fabulous hair, kitschy 50's costumes and a pun-tastic way with a caption, from “Miss Shellfish Beach 1985” and "Mother's Ruined" to “VALLEY OF THE LOLS.”