Glory And Gore – Lorde
37:08 min • Universal • October 28, 2013
John Preston reviews
The troubling thing about Lorde is that she’s only 16, about to turn 17 at the time of writing. This, her debut album, sounds like the work of someone in their mid twenties, which isn’t exactly middle aged either, but experience that comes with age does help reinforce artistic credibility. But this a prejudice and should therefore be discounted. Childhood and very early adulthood is experienced differently based on environmental and social factors and kids are no longer just kids, the definition has before blurry. Exposure to almost everything is effortlessly achieved whether you are in control of what you are experiencing or not and kids now worry about feeling too old, to quote Lorde here, at the age of 16. Her worry is our worry. Her talent is that she knows how to create brilliant, massive pop songs.
There are 2 very big songs on the seductive, and that it is the right word, ‘Pure Heroine’. The bigger of the 2, ‘Tennis Court’, begins with Lorde asking the question “don’t you think that’s it boring when people talk?” Although the statement itself is nonsensical without context, she has already stared you straight on and in the space of 5 seconds you’re captive. Against a bare hip hop beat, wide screen synths and the lonely sound of a repeated and dominant ‘blip blip’ from an imagined early computer game (Atari tennis would be topical of course), the steely eyed verse can only serve as a perfect appetiser for the sublime chorus. Punctuated by a drunk and slowed down ‘yeah!’ borrowed from the current rap sound favoured by ASAP Rocky and already hijacked by Miley, Lordes is intoxicatingly confident and dominates the song’s boulder like hook. Interesting that the current number one in the USA, the appropriately majestic ‘Royals’, and the second very big song here, is lyrically a reaction against hip hop culture which, in the States at least, is a dominant chunk of popular culture (see Miley again). It’s all rumbles and clicks, equal parts Peggy Lee, Lana Del Rey and Lykke Li (vocally they sound very similar – you would never imagine that Lorde is American let alone a New Zealander) but musically it’s as much a classic Rihanna song as anything else currently in the top ten, more ‘Umbrella’ than ‘Only Girl in the World’.
The remaining 8 songs on the self written ‘Pure Heroine’ are variations on the musical and lyrical themes established in these two songs and apart from a couple of misfires (the album closer ,’A World Alone’, is too heavy handed in its attempts to demonstrate one of the album’s key subjects of alienation) the quality is very high throughout. The cleverly repetitious ‘Ribs’ is the only track with a reoccurring and solid dance beat but is drenched in teen melancholy and on the booming and hypnotic ‘Team’ Lordes lyrically avoids the tirelessly reproduced ‘up in the club’ line by announcing “I’m kinda over been told to throw my hands in the air”. ‘Glory and Gore’, probably the most Del Rey indebted song here and herself the ultimate magpie, divides verses up sonically between hip hop via The XX cut with indie pop percussion practices of seemingly banging hard on a saucepan. These clever and effective musical tricks, and there are many, help what could have been a samey sounding set remain fresh and inventive. ‘White Teeth Teens’ has a ’60s girl group roll and sneer until the confessional line “I’ll let you into something big, I’m not a white teeth teen, I tried to join but never did, they way they are and the way they seem; it’s something in the blood”. ‘Buzzcut Season’ contains the lovely line “I remember when your head caught flame, it kissed your scalp and caressed your brain” and demonstrates Lorde’s skill with words, lyrics that can create a fluid and beautiful image.
The worldwide success of Ellie Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor – her real name – puts her in the post, post-modern situation of becoming what she appears to at least mock here and, at times, hate. A star who is, because her ability to not only perform but also wrote write and reproduce, a highly desirable commodity. There is an innocence to Lordes’ ‘Pure Heroine’ which she will be unable to return to – her school friends and their anti-gang, their language and rejection of the mainstream – now she is the mainstream. Her ability to compose and express these experiences in such an accessible and grounded but haunting style may be her downfall but our gain. Ultimately Lordes will just have to decide just how far she wants to go as at the moment there really would appear to be no limits for this extremely talented and intriguing young woman.