Marina And The Diamonds-The Family Jewels Review

Marina And The Diamonds-The Family Jewels Review

Picture  taken by Kasia Bobula on the set of the ‘Hollywood’ video shoot

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Marina And The Diamonds-The Family Jewels Review

Runner up in The BBC’s Sound of 2010 poll, Marina and the Diamonds puts her money where the hype is and releases her much anticipated debut album ‘The Family Jewels’. The question is, does it cut the mustard, does it measure up, is it all that???The short answer is an unequivocal “YES!” But here’s the long version….

Marina And The Diamonds-The Family Jewels Review‘The Family Jewels’ really does exceed all expectations and heralds the arrival of an outstanding new talent, it’s an album that can be enjoyed on many different levels and should appeal right across the board from fashion conscious teens right through to middle-aged Kate Bush fans . Comparisons are of course lazy, but on this occasion seem quite justified because at times you may feel like you’re listening to Tori Amos’ street wise, sassy little sister. There are other musical reference points throughout the album, for example a discerning ear may well detect more than a hint of the vocal aerobics favoured by Regina Spector, or the theatrical, dramatic delivery of Amanda Palmer or even a pop-centric version of Siouxsie Sioux.  Despite such comparisons Marina has unleashed an album that is very different from what’s currently being produced by other artists in the sphere of ‘pop’. You have to say ‘hats off’ to Neon Gold and Marina And The Diamonds -tracklist679 Recordings Ltd for taking a chance on a singer many may have regarded as a little too ‘wacky’ and left field at a time when record labels rarely invest in anything that deviates from the traditional ‘safe pop’ template. ‘Family Jewels’ is a vibrant, angry, wry, joyous and at times scathingly sarcastic affair. But it also reveals a more reflective vulnerable side, as  weaved throughout the fabric of  what is, essentially a pop album , are songs imbued with an aching melancholy which display a raw honesty that is genuinely touching, no more so than on the magnificent ‘Numb’or the spine tingling ‘Rootless’. Whilst Marina may not quite be Simone De Beauvoir just yet, this is an intelligent album that tries to make sense of being a young female in 2010.  A world in which there has been a definite backslide into an ideology that seeks to enforce certain female stereotypes and sadly, a world where  raunch culture, idealised beauty and ‘hotness’ are seemingly regarded as the ultimate tools of female empowerment ( perversely often by females!). The purposefully heavily photoshopped album art work also provides an ironic nod to many of the ideas and themes that run throughout the course of the album.

The album kicks off in fine style with a new song ‘Are You Satisfied? and straight away any fears that a big label deal would somehow extinguish Marina’s fire are quickly laid to rest.  ‘Shampain’ gets a thorough reworking, replacing the slightly cheesy keyboard present on the early demos with a throbbing synth beat that snakes around Marinas vocals and turns an already good song into a pop beast. Lead single ‘Hollywood’ is probably the albums most mainstream offering and whilst it’s chart success has gleaned Marina a whole new army of fans, it’s also given credence to the theory that Marina may well be one of those artists who you either  “get” or are left wondering just what exactly all the fuss is about. Whilst ‘Hollywood’ is not Marina’s best track, it still boasts a killer chorus and is certainly more intelligent than your average chart single.  Love or hate it there’s no denying that in many ways ‘Hollywood’ is a brave pop song in terms of the subject matter. Bizarrely, it seems that a small minority of over sensitive miscreants have churlishly  misinterpreted ‘Hollywood’ as somehow being an attack on American values, however anybody with a modicum of intelligence will surely dismiss that accusation with the contempt it deserves. In reality ‘Hollywood’ addresses issues that Marina often touches on, both in her music and her blogging, such as our obsession with the emptiness of celebrity culture. Like many of us she is seduced and yet repelled by Hollywood’s plastic alternative reality, and deftly sums up her feelings as “Living in a movie scene/ Puking American dreams”

The boisterous, bouncing  ‘Girls’ w.a.g.s an accusatory musical finger at vapid female airheads who blindly follow fashions without engaging their brain and conform to a media (male) driven stereotype. However I’d question if ‘I think like a guy’ is necessarily the bench-mark of cerebral excellence? Elsewhere ‘Mowgli’s Road’ sounds as gleefully insane as ever (die-hard Diamonds will be pleased to hear that the slightly spooky clockwork intro is back) and ‘I am Not A Robot’ remains a sublime example of how intelligent, heartfelt pop should sound.

‘The Outsider’, another old favourite from Marinas early demos, could be  Kate Bush fronting the Pet Shop Boys in an alternative reality, although  you wonder if even they could come up with something this good!  One of Marinas oldest songs ‘Hermit the Frog’ which appeared on 2007’s homemade CD  ‘Mermaid versus Sailor ‘also makes the album cut, whilst another brand new tune ‘Oh No’ sees Marina warning ‘If you are not very careful/Your possessions will possess you’ and highlights her idiosyncratic, off the wall take on modern life.

It’s a great  album which has greater depth than some may associate with a genre as seemingly disposable as ‘pop’.  Strip away the pop gloss and production sparkle and there is sadness, anger, insecurity and contradiction. And maybe it’s the combination of  all these elements that make Marina stand out as a much more real, colourful and ultimately engaging  character than much of  the bland, unchallenging musical effluence that all too often clogs up the musical toilet known as ‘the charts’. ‘The Family Jewels’ proves she’s so much more than simply Kate Bush on acid.  One gripe though, no ‘This is L.A.’?   If this is the future of pop, then I’m already in my DeLorean with Marty and Doc as the futures bright, the futures Marina.- Hype? Not a chance.

9.5/10

Marina Interview here

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this review has also been shared for publication on Altsounds.com

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20 comments

  1. Robin @ Breaking More Waves · February 12, 2010

    I was really looking forward to your review of this album, knowing how you have been very enthusiastic about Marina’s work up to now, and I was not disappointed. You seem to have captured perfectly the idea that Marina is a pop star, but one with depth who is prepared to question her world.

    I’m a big fan of pop music, but right now, taking a look at the current UK Top 40 singles Marina really is a diamond in amongst the blandness of what constitutes our pop charts.

    • vonpip · February 12, 2010

      Thanks Robin you are of course ‘bang on’, she really is a refreshing blast of colourful uncompromising pop -shot through with honesty in a singularly beige pop world at present . I trust the album didn’t disappoint you either !

  2. Maria Sapphire · February 13, 2010

    Found this review via a tweet from Neon Gold records
    best review of @MarinasDiamonds debut LP I’ve read yet, totally “gets” the album and the ideaology behind it:
    MarinasDiamonds. @neongoldrecords I agree. Understood better than my dear self.

    Really excellent review it is tooxx

    • vonpip · February 13, 2010

      Ah thanks, yeah I saw that and have to admit was rather pleased x

  3. Funnki Bhudda · February 15, 2010

    I agree this review is fantatsic, makes me want to get the album NOW and totally nails what Marina is all about

  4. JasonMel · February 15, 2010

    Great to find a review by a like-minded listener! I agree that “Girls” is a flawed song, much like “36D” was a flawed song many years ago. But just as that band recognized the flaw soon after releasing the song, I think Marina senses the issue. If you’ve ever heard the first version of “Girls,” you know she toned down some of the lyrics a good deal. But the instrumentation is great, and the song is catchy. Like “Under My Thumb,” its musical sparkle makes it impossible to forsake just because of ideology.

    • vonpip · February 16, 2010

      Your right and Marina’s never been afraid to admit some of her ideas aren’t fully formed, she’s still working out her world view and in often does it via her music. Yeah heard all the early versions, and although Girls is an old song it is too catchy to leave off the album. Would love to hear a full studio version of ‘This Is L.A.” though

  5. Minniehaha · February 15, 2010

    Awesome. Cannot wait to buy this. Brilliant

  6. Simon Harris · February 16, 2010

    Well if Marina thinks you ‘get it’ you cant argue with that. Agree great insight into what I hope will be a great album. Pop with a bit more depth. Just what we need right now.

  7. DaveCromwell · February 16, 2010

    You had me at “middle-aged Kate Bush fans” 😉

    Interesting.

    I think I’m seeing her in New York soon.

    “cuckoo”

    Best Andy line:

    “the musical toilet known as ‘the charts’

    hee, hee.

    It’s what keeps me coming back
    😉

  8. Darlene · February 17, 2010

    Its great to read a review that really gets the writers enthusisam over, so many writers try and prove they are clever and logical without actually investing any emotion in the music. Maybe they think thats cool – but really it isnt . Its ususally pompous students demonstarting their love for the thesaurus more so than the music. I’d prefer to read reviews by people who are genuienly passionate about what matters most MUSIC. This blog qualifies. Good work.

    PS/ The albums a great pop album and won’t disappoint those who have open ears and an open mind.

  9. Sara Love Marina · February 17, 2010

    What a f**king brilliant review, what a F**king brilliant album xx

  10. Whippy · February 18, 2010

    Ahhhh..at last a review that does this wonderful album justice, ab fabx

  11. Adamski · February 18, 2010

    Love her

  12. Phil · February 19, 2010

    “Strip away the pop gloss and production sparkle and there is sadness, anger, insecurity and contradiction.”

    I think that you managed to nail the entire album in one careful sentence.

    • vonpip · February 19, 2010

      Thanks, the contradiction all comes from a good place , from her desire to learn from mistakes, and to find out where she wants to be.

  13. Notalwaysontop · February 24, 2010

    After reading many of the reviews this is without doubt the best. Not because I agree with it,or that it’s well written. But because it actually reviews the album and understands what M&TD’s is coming from. . So many so called clever reviewers totally miss the point, this scores a bull’s-eye.x

    • vonpip · February 24, 2010

      Thanks there are some pretty wild reviews out there actually

      The most absurd take I’ve heard of “Hollywood” is thus “Hollywood,” a slim dissection of American culture that might be the most definitive recent pop culture depiction of U.K. jealousy/curiosity/resentment toward the colony that got away, I can understand it, but it’s something people usually outgrow, as most come to realize that the cultural superiority of the British to the Americans is about as legitimate as a British accent is indicative of intelligence.

      and “what could have been a delicate indie album has been transformed into a collection of bossy pop songs.”*

      *I mean I can understand indie snobbery , but it’s something people usually outgrow, no ?

      • AmPandemic · February 25, 2010

        Ive just found that review you mentioned …It really is quite ridiculous .what a load of tosh to say ‘Hollywood’ is an attack on American culture and turning the review into a jingositic uncalled for assualt on us Brits is pretty low too. Funny though as if the reviewer had done her research she’d know that MArina is half greek and more influnced by that culture than British. ‘Hollywood’ is the ultimate representation of fakeness, NOT America. get that NOT America. The arguements about inteliigence are clearly flawed as it is that reveiwer there who shows a lack of logic and demonstrates just how she doesnt ‘get’ the whole deal.

        The VPME review however is superb

  14. Lee · February 26, 2010

    I completely agree, I simply love her message and style and the music is so delicious. I’m going to have it shipped over to NM but it’s definitely worth it. Hollywood is very meaningful for me and my sis, we of course understood what she was trying to say and it’s the most ridiculously catchy chorus ever. What really got me into her was the amazing song and video for I am Not a Robot. Very heartfelt and uplifting. I love Marina and when I start making music I will definitely be influenced by her honesty and great ideas.❤

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