Review | Chemtrails Over The Country Club – Lana Del Rey

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Chemtrails… is a further affirmation of Lana Del Rey’s prowess, writes Niamh Pillinger.

Following the controversial Instagram post in which Lana Del Rey asked if she could “go back to singing about being embodied” without “being crucified”, where she was going to go after the Grammy nominated Norman Fucking Rockwell! was anyone’s guess.

The outcome? Chemtrails Over The Country Club, a pensive meditation on the perils of fame, Del Rey’s upbringing, and past relationships. Drawing influence from a multitude of her previous albums as well as 2020’s Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass, this latest instalment is a work of self-awareness, with call-backs to previous songs exemplifying Del Rey’s growth on her tumultuous journey.

Opening track ‘White Dress’ takes the listener back to Del Rey’s time waitressing and performing as May Jailer, Sparkle Jump Rope Queen, or Lizzy Grant and The Phenomena. The whispery vocals of this track feel symbolic given Del Rey’s dreams of fame and unease as to where she would find herself once in its hold. They can at times feel out of place against the powerful melody, however – the track could perhaps be benefitted by a more commanding and authoritative voice.

The more powerful but mournful vocal employed on ‘Dark But Just A Game’ explores her flirtations with the dangerous and unhealthy light of fame, bringing the classic melancholy expected from Del Rey. Feeling like a “be careful what you wish for” warning, the track adds a sense dramatism to the album and signals the shift from where Elizabeth Grant into Lana Del Rey was made. ‘Dance Til We Die’ brings a calmer feeling to the album, with the overall attitude becoming more optimistic and comforting. Her soft deliveries rise to a celebratory, joyous peak, with Del Rey keen to express that the choices she’s made throughout Chemtrails… and her career are justified.

Chemtrails Over The Country Club sees a lot of imagery repeated from previous works and even direct call-backs to lyrics. For story-telling purposes, this reuse of imagery makes it easy to see the ways in which Del Rey cleverly exhibits her growth from past albums. Just like in Norman Fucking Rockwell’s ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’, Del Rey asserts herself, stating she’s “No more candle in the wind”, a further portrayal of her newfound independence in both ‘Tulsa Jesus Freak’ and ‘Yosemite’. Aurally, these tracks are quite similar to Ultraviolence, though they now centre around Del Rey’s own invincibility and heroism rather than that of the people around her. This is a refreshing turn – the darker elements of Del Rey’s sound are present but escape the past romanticising of abusive power dynamics that could often alienate listeners in Ultraviolence.  

The way Del Rey can take the listener back to exact moments in her previous work further illustrates her astute poeticism and raconteur status. The crazy days of Born To Die and Paradise, where she was still finding her feet in the public eye, have subsided to a new optimism reminiscent of the tones of Lust For Life. From start to finish, the listener is taken almost chronologically through the sounds Lana Del Rey has explored in her previous albums, giving Chemtrails… a near-cinematic edge. She has retained all her classic elements: David Lynch references, the characterisation of LA, and a focus on her past loves. For already ardent fans, there are plenty of lyrical easter eggs that add even more to the stories already told rather than feeling like a stale rehashing of the same old subjects. Chemtrails… is therefore complete, self-realised, and a refreshingly honest celebration of female independence.

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