Review // Marina & The Diamonds – The Family Jewels

Alternative woman = Kate Bush. The horrendous stereotype made by thick people who can’t be bothered to listen to music and give Kate Bush far more credit than she deserves. Marina Diamandis partly deserves this comparison but with such an abundance of melodrama she’s perhaps more akin to Meatloaf (albeit after six-twelve months of Slim Fast and plastic surgery) with Andrew Lloyd Webber arranging the backing.

The horrible thing about this image is that the album is actually pretty good. ‘Are You Satisfied’ could open an opera as well as a pop album; [Enter stage left, worn down but defiant young girl, possibly aristocratic but fallen on hard times] “I was pulling out my hair/ The day I got the deal/ Chemically calm/ Was I meant to feel happy?“. Songs which would be the most horrific, pretentious rubbish in the hands of someone with an ounce of self-consciousness come out powerfully, anthemic and captivating. Diamandis appears as an ultimately self-satisfied, superior drama freak who needed to learn an instrument for drama school and was surprisingly articulate with a good sense of rhythm. A bit like a member of Glee Club brought up on Little Boots and Arcade Fire.

This is perhaps a bit of a patronising view as there are also real moments of originality when the diamond shines. ‘Mowgli’s Road’, a hit from the summer festivals last year, remains upbeat with a jungle cacophony of sound, all perfectly orchestrated. ‘Obsessions’ is tender and allows Marina to explore her tone with a more restrained sound. Elements of music hall, opera and, ultimately, melodrama permeate each aspect of an album you may not expect to like. There are massive verges on cringe, which are sometimes not avoided, but they actually give the album a strong personality which makes it very entertaining. Every song has single potential, embodying glamour and fame most prominently the comic, West Side Story of ‘Hollywood’ and glitz and pretension abounding in ‘Shampain’, but there is enough potential irony to keep us engaged and keep just enough dignity in listening to it.

The Family Jewels is out 22/2/10 on 679/Atlantic.