26 September 2023

Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By Lana Del Rey, Polydor 2023.

Another album that’s come my way via Neil of Human Services.

I’m a fan of Lana Del Rey’s work and loved the Norman Rockwell album in particular.

Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd is an album that takes a couple of listens to get into because it’s such a large canvas and nothing is straight forward.

From the opening hymn-like track, The Grants, with its choir rehearsal through the following 18 tracks we are taken on a winding and convoluted path through the Grant family’s relationships and history.

Her sister, father and brother appear in the songs as if they are part of her, which of course they are. Our closest relationships make us who we are.

Lana, aka Elizabeth Grant, leads us on a sprawling journey, as if we’re trawling our way through the family photo album, examining fragments of lives captured in a moment of time.

In each song she endeavours to create an atmosphere that captures the fragility of that particular moment.

Because each moment is unique and fleeting the music reflects this. You often get the feeling that the album is a work-in-progress just as life is.

Lana dabbles in jazz and gospel, orchestral film scores, touching sparse ballads, rap, anything that can hold those fleeting moments in our view.

It’s easy to get lost and I found myself hitting replay regularly.

One criticism I have is not of the album itself but the size of the font used for the lyrics in the fold-out sleeve. It is tiny and even in good light almost impossible to read.

This may seem trivial, and I guess in a way it is, but I really wanted to concentrate on what Lana was saying. In frustration I gave up and just let it all wash over me.

The immense sprawling nature of the album takes us from the many forms of desire and lust in the track A&W to a 4-minute sermon from Judah Smith. Are we meant to take this preaching seriously? The laughter in the track suggests not.

This album is like a very dense book and it’s going to take me many more listens to tease out the many layers of meaning it contains. But it is so good that I’ll keep going back.

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