I Am Not a Robot
en: The Family Jewels (Marina and the Diamonds album) [info]
In pop terms Marina Diamandis is rather unusual. Not because she lacks the genuine weirdness and fearless invention of Micachu (although she does), or the songwriting ability of Florence Welch (although she does). No. She's strange because she appears to have based her entire singing style on the odd rhythms and insane lurches of Sparks' This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both Of Us.
In small doses Marina can be magnificent. Her first major label single, Mowgli's Road, includes insane lyrics about cutlery ("Ten silver spoons coming after me"), the beats and pacing of Green Day's Hitchin' a Ride, and Tori Amos-ish baroque soundscapes and wild animal noises. It's as much Lord of the Flies as The Jungle Book. Guilty is just as interesting: bursts of harpsichord, beats more at home on a Burial record, looped background vocal motifs and perhaps Marina's best vocal performance on the album. And recent single Hollywood may sound as bombastic and ridiculous as Arnie driving a Humvee through a plate glass window, but it's superbly enjoyable.
The consistently diverting changes in style across the album are fine - the wonky 80s shoulder-pad pop of The Outsider is nothing like anything else here, for example. But over 13 songs of Sparks-voice and many similar staccato piano riffs listeners may feel bludgeoned by Marina and her slightly overbearing presence. On Oh No! she sings, "Don't do love, don't do friends / I'm only after success, don't need a relationship." Then there's the opener, Are You Satisfied: "It's not my problem / is my problem / that I never am happy / my problem is my problem on how fast I will succeed." Ambition and talent is useful, but a having a massive ego and being friendless is not. Hopefully she's just singing in character.
Judging by the auspicious critical and commercial reception to Hollywood, there will be many who find a great deal to love about Marina and her whacky voice; but there will be just as many who despise her. A tiny minority may be indifferent, but like Mika, the male act whose songs sound most like those on The Family Jewels, the Abergavenny-born singer will mostly polarise opinion.