THE WAIT IN anticipation of an album release still occurs occasionally, and to finally hear Pure Heroine hot on the heels of the international success of fellow New Zealander, Ella Yelich-O’Connor, otherwise known as Lorde, it feels different this time – more important, more vital somehow. She’s big enough now that I guess there’s less chance of bumping into her somewhere to give a nod of approval in person. Lorde’s profile is only going to get higher and if the elegant stew of ingredients in this music is anything to go by, she’ll also maintain an already substantial musical foundation to back it all up.
To look at Lorde’s music through a prism of national pride is, at least for me, to be avoided in order to remain impartial. It’s hard. There’s a lot to like, from the quirky subtlety of the Love Club EP, to the admirable humility of the recent 3rd Degree television interview, to the smart foresight on behalf of Lorde’s management and their unusual decision to play the long game. That tactic was also employed in the early career of British singer/songwriter, Kate Bush. She was discovered at the age of 15, and like Lorde, waited, wrote songs and was nurtured for three years before being unleashed to the same dizzying heights that Lorde now also knows all about.
Bush went on to break molds and create firsts, musically and technologically. Is Lorde capable of this? I think yes. She’s already doing it. The long facial shot of the ‘Tennis Court’ video and the mime to one word, that was new. The refusal to tour with Katy Perry was also an innovative jab.
The music itself reveals innovation too. Not only in detail, but the overall concept is clearly defined and cleverly sidesteps the square you might think an artist at such a formative career stage might be expected to stand inside. Electronic drums and synthesizers predominate but do not overshadow the songs themselves. Bass lines are absent a lot of the time. When the bass is there, its presence is subtle, and as in the uptempo ‘Ribs’, doesn’t overly intrude in the manner bass sometimes can in dance music.
These ingredients are tastefully placed in order to leave room for the real stars of the show, which are Lorde’s voice and her lyrics. In ‘400 Lux’ she fittingly says ‘We might be hollow but we’re brave’. She’s certainly not afraid to make a statement as with the gem, ‘Only bad people live to see their likeness set in stone’ from ‘Still Sane’. The lyrics in general on Pure Heroine appear to be a mix of social commentary and the diaristic, some seemingly autobiographical, but many left open enough to interpretation to be easily adopted by the listener. Try and tell me that ‘Buzzcut Season’ or ‘Glory And Gore’ won’t be on the lips of teenagers everywhere within a year.
Technically, the sound of Pure Heroine doesn’t jump out of the speakers in the way that even an album you dislike can sometimes leave a huge and positive impression and make you consider hitting the repeat button. I will replay this album, but the sonic recipe isn’t screaming out at me to do so. Maybe that was the idea, to refrain from the big/loud battle and continue the pattern of playing it cool all the way down the line. For as much as we’re a nation of DIY’ers and are pro the get-up-and-go, us kiwis sure appreciate a little self-effacement now and then. If that’s the case, nice work. But nice work anyway. Pure Heroine is Lorde beautifully laying her cards out on the table. And as impressive as the layout is, she hasn’t even started playing yet. But you wait. PETER KEARNS
Sound = 3.5/5
Music = 3.5/5