Lana Del Rey
Chemtrails Over The Country Club


1.5
very poor

Review

by JohnnyoftheWell STAFF
March 20th, 2021 | 664 replies


Release Date: 03/19/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It was such a scene / and I felt seen

When will people stop giving Lana del Rey such unfair treatment? Is it a tragedy that more people don’t take her radically candid songwriting style more seriously? Uh, you bet it is, and don’t you dare insinuate that there are more important things to bewail. Of everyone who has ever put self-awareness to one side and stood Christ-like in the spotlight of public scrutiny, has any rich, successful, attractive, popular, critically acclaimed artist been less rewarded for doing so? Maybe she brings a little of it upon herself, but as far as big names go, Lana is clearly the victim of discriminatory double standards: if Beyoncé called out half the non-white RnB canon for singing too loosely about sex, you can bet people would take her seriously! People have been calling Lana biased against black artists ever since she challenged Azealia Banks to a fistfight, but the facts dictate that no-one cares more about not soliciting a racially informed perspective on just about anything than Lana del Rey. Not that any of this is important; it's still great music. God, if only people paid attention to the music…

Lana del Rey's new album contains forty-five minutes of music, and, heavens be praised, none of the double standards, real or imagined, held against her have any reason to enter into its reception. Chemtrails Over The Country Club is a face-value bad album so rife with clumsy writing, bland instrumentation, vacuous sentimentalism and hamfisted stylisation that no wider knowledge of its creator or her portfolio is remotely necessary to write it off wholesale. If Norman Fucking Rockwell! was the record her non-partisan sympathisers dreamed she might make, this is the one they feared. It’s hushed but impersonal, pared-back without having anything to reveal, and verbose without saying anything of substance. You should hear it immediately by means that won’t encourage its reception on popular platforms, and then avoid it for the rest of your days.

Things start out on the wrong foot: opener “White Dress” sees del Rey reinvent her stately drawl into a wheezy correlate to the delivery that handed Billie Eilish her 2019 Grammy. Whether or not this counts as a belated shrug at yesterday’s battles or a step into brave new territory is beyond me, but it’s insufferably laboured either way. It’s seen off with a stinker of a chorus, crammed with an indecent amount of syllables and dead-on-arrival melodies memorable in the same way as, say, footage of a gull in an oilslick. It’s like a major failure of aesthetic judgement, in which sense it’s a little unrepresentative of the rest of the album; for the most part, Chemtrails is more full of interminable non-starters than of outright shockers. “Let Me Love You Like A Woman” and “Wild At Heart” are particular offenders here, dragging their heels through a dearth of good hooks and a flush of Americana cliches, and their tepid instrumentation and delivery are reflected across the board. To this end, producer/writer/stagnater-in-chief of today’s white girl pop landscape Jack Antonoff is less a distant architect and more a hands-on enabler, streamlining arrangements so minimal that each one feels like a direct extension of his own self-satisfied hands over lucrative ivories. Similarly to last year’s spoken word siesta hour Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass, these arrangements are almost entirely dedicated to spotlighting and subtly accenting del Rey’s vocal performance and, fatally, her lyricism.

In this department, Chemtrails is a distinct step down from Norman Fucking Rockwell!, which for all its postulation and privilege at least held a zeitgeist edge of sorts. Lana sings, as usual, about living with a secret wildness, sacrificed to a neverending sequence of underwhelming highs and suburban tropes, and underscored by a contrarian ambivalence towards LA that will be immediately familiar to those lucky few who made it through Violet.... Her writing is poetic in the dreariest sense imaginable, putatively empowered by the circumstance of its meter, but ultimately little more than a flimsy get-out-of-jail card for couplets as inexcusable as I only mention it 'cause it was such a scene / and I felt seen and the cameras have flashes / they cause the car crashes. There are vocalists who could have carried these lines with a wry wink, but del Rey’s quintessentially American immunity to irony lets her down here.

Chemtrails largely avoids NFR's engagement with contemporary specifics; where that album dredged up Donald Trump and Kanye West, the closest thing here is the perplexingly awful musing of George got arrested right on the lawn / we might be breaking up right after this song in "Breaking Up Slowly". True to recent form, it's like del Rey is reaching out for society's wrist with a hand left too long in the champagne bucket to make out the faintest trace of a pulse. Her pen is supposedly directed towards the warmth and solidarity of her relationships with other women, but this is rarely evident outside of the zany title-track; her central truth is still, somehow, located in the middle distance between her past and future dreams of self-destructive love affairs and aimless avenues of escape. Isn't it cool how nothing here changes at all, indeed.

While its lows are catastrophically dull, Chemtrails has a handful of salvageable cuts. It peaks early and demurely, with the one-two combination of the title-track and the long-teased “Tulsa Jesus Freak”. The former is a partial vindication of the album’s minimalist palette, a near-fairytale daydream atmosphere responsive to the slightest lilt of her inflections. It’s one of the rare moments where her concerted fidelity to consistent verse meter feels graceful and organic; it’s a suburban mapping as derivative and decadent as any she’s penned, but this is less a retread and more a graceful reminder of why she attracted such intrigue for those qualities to begin with. On the other hand, “Tulsa Jesus Freak” is the only part of the album that revives the vintage tension of del Rey’s early days, though it’s more a hushed mattress ode than the trailblazing glamour of, say, “Off To the Races.” “Dark But Just A Game” is also worth an honourable mention for breaking the album’s mould with a chorus with chords that actively respond to its verse progression rather than bleeding out of its languor. None of these are sufficient to give Chemtrails the feel of a highlight album, but they’re serviceable as far as silver linings go.

By and large, Chemtrails Over The Country Club confirms every longstanding inadequacy to Lana del Rey’s craft with a pernicious listlessness that bloats its relatively economical runtime and extends a mind-erasing tedium far beyond those temporal confines. It neither conflicts with nor needs to intersect with del Rey’s celebrity profile, but for anyone mindful of the vast amounts of patience demanded of anyone who really gets Lana del Rey in a holistic sense, it will likely come off as anything from disappointing to outright insulting. This is supported by the record’s final statement, a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free”; while the cover itself is a limp restaging carried largely by the vocal talents of Weyes Blood and Zella Day, the clarity of Mitchell’s writing cuts through the vagueness and hazy indulgence of del Rey’s craft on the preceding ten tracks. There’s a prophetic aptness to this: in an in-depth commentary on Norman Fuckng Rockwell! that del Rey famously trashed on social media, arch-critic Ann Powers assessed del Rey’s songwriting as unfocused and undercooked in comparison with Mitchell’s, one of many critical observations of del Rey doomed to repeat themselves here . Back in 2012, the Lana del Rey of Born To Die spoke truth to toxic, masculine power with a fascinatingly contradictory vision of self-empowerment. This intrigue and cognitive dissonance has since boiled down to a distant hangover; the Lana del Rey of Chemtrails is full of shit and lost in a blurry mess of yesterday’s cliches, yet she somehow seems more herself than she’s ever been.



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user ratings (199)
2.8
good
other reviews of this album
TheMoonchild (1.5)
The type of album that people who hate Lana Del Rey thinks she makes all the time....

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Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2021


34741 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

ok hugh puddles you have gone too far this time

Digging: Xiu Xiu - OH NO

Colton
March 20th 2021


8996 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

Lmaoo this is great



I like how you start it off with “I know why you think I hate this, but trust me, it’s bad for reasons completely outside of all that too”

DoofDoof
March 20th 2021


9086 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

Absolute horror show album [2]

DoofDoof
March 20th 2021


9086 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

Still think her debut (Born to Die not the Lizzie thing) did all she needed to do - one and done, left it there and she could have had a cult curio for the ages



As is....

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
March 20th 2021


2169 Comments


This ratings chart looks very odd

Colton
March 20th 2021


8996 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

the Whole Lotta Red of 2021

DoofDoof
March 20th 2021


9086 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

‘This rating chart looks very odd’



Looks like it’s measuring a weak pulse

YouFoldAndIWin
March 20th 2021


9 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I somehow imagine Jack Antonoff having to read all of this horribly "edgy and try hard" review and thinking : "can't belive this salty fat dude spent 2 hours writing so much shit for an absolute useless music review site, what a great life he must have".

DoofDoof
March 20th 2021


9086 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

^ and then there’s the dude who gets triggered and writes a sanctimonious response to said review



it’s beautiful

hel9000
Contributing Reviewer
March 20th 2021


1154 Comments


fantastic review. I plan to stay far away from this album.

DoofDoof
March 20th 2021


9086 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

‘Down at the men in music business conference’.



The way Lana makes this line scan I don’t know whether to laugh or cry



For that reason my favourite part of the whole album and almost makes the first tune not bland.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2021


34741 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

cheers hel, hope you stay the course ;]

@user hugh puddles will respond to your comment later, he is out jogging rn. gotta amend that e-BMI before darth antonoff lands a sick burn on it, crikey what a thought

Colton
March 20th 2021


8996 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

“I somehow imagine Jack Antonoff having to read all of this horribly "edgy and try hard" review and thinking : "can't belive this salty fat dude spent 2 hours writing so much shit for an absolute useless music review site, what a great life he must have".



Yayyy they’re here already

alamo
March 20th 2021


3762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sing me like a bible hymn😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

Demon of the Fall
March 20th 2021


19042 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

I’m guessing this is terrible in an irredeemably dull slog kind of way, rather than an amusing way. Pass.



Nice review though. Haha.

Digging: Unwound - Repetition

DoofDoof
March 20th 2021


9086 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

Demon ‘White Dress’ is worth a listen, it nearly works but then it also almost lands flat on its face - it’s clearly the best track due to this reason alone



The rest is all boring and/or a self cannibalism of ideas

LeddSledd
March 20th 2021


4687 Comments


Hugh Puddle returns

Digging: Brainiac - Bonsai Superstar

Gyromania
March 20th 2021


32221 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

damn is it rly that bad?

Vitorhugo
March 20th 2021


2 Comments


Do you produce your criticisms by the ass? They may only have listened to Chemtrails in the ass, you fucking sons of bitches

Vitorhugo
March 20th 2021


2 Comments


Do you produce your criticisms by the ass? They may only have listened to Chemtrails in the ass, you fucking sons of bitches



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