“Electra Heart” – Marina and the Diamonds

3 stars (out of 5)

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Picture of - Marina & The Diamonds Electra Heart: Deluxe EditionThe conceptual aspect of Marina Diamandis’ second album “Electra Heart” is unimportant and tritely executed (and spoken about tirelessly by Marina in the endless build up to the album’s release), but what should be important are the songs; the exhilarating heart on your sleeve emotions of a pop album.  Marina and the Diamonds debut album, “The Family Jewels”, was histrionic in places with Marina’s yodelling and goggle-eyed vocals sometimes making for a tiring ride but she had some great songs and pulled off some confident performances. It was original in a way that Ellie Goulding’s debut “Lights” was not. Marina lost out to Goulding in the BBC’s rather silly “Sound of” award in 2010 and also failed to sell in the numbers that Goulding did. So welcome aboard the cream of America’s female popstars’ writing and production teams. Marina has been very honest about her ambition to shift enormous quantities of records and, supposedly in the name of the concept, at any cost to her originality or credibility. Who cares, as long as it’s good?

The second single “Primadonna” has a few nice touches with the backing vocal ‘oohs’ and ‘wows’ commenting on Marina’s swooping main vocal making it more idiosyncratic than her American counterparts and the spoken verses on the chunkily spinning “Homewrecker” are pure Neil Tennant, which can never a bad thing. On the angelically-chiming “Teen Idle”, which is probably the best song here, Marina creates a  bedroom anthem for the socially alienated girls, and I suspect some boys, harbouring their truly guilty secret of wanting to be Jordan and with its ironic, gleeful ‘feeling super, super,  super suicidal!’ refrain adding some humour.

 It’s interesting that both this track and the closing, majestic electro ballad “Fear and Loathing” are both produced by Liam Howell who also worked on the majority of “The Family Jewels” and is also the only British producer here. These tracks are two of the most charismatic and knowing here and also the most interesting musically and melodically with Marina completely owning both songs in terms of performance; who knows how this album would have sounded if Howell had been given more free reign again here? And in what is turning out to be a very irritating trend some of the best songs are only available on the deluxe version of the album; the pounding and clear-headed first single “Radioactive”, straightforward  piano ballad “Buy the Stars” and Aha-indebted “Lonely Hearts Club”.

 If only these tracks had replaced the plodding and anodyne (and not on purpose, I suspect, but it’s a bit confusing what with this cock-eyed concept) “Living Dead”, “Valley of the Dolls” and “Power and Control” amongst others then this would have been a solid, albeit more aggressively commercial, sophomore effort. As it stands currently it’s a 3 star must do better next time. 

 Disappointment.