x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Lene Marlin: Twist the Truth

Norway's biggest pop act continues her wade through mawkishness and malaise but with a ray of light here and there.

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Lene Marlin is one of Norway's biggest pop acts. She doesn't have much of a profile outside of Europe but you will have heard her big single from the turn of the century, Sitting Down Here. Think back - you probably mistook it for The Corrs. She also wrote the rather mawkishly cautionary title track on Rihanna's third album, Good Girl Gone Bad. Between them, these two tracks set out her stall: politely jangling, rudely finger-wagging mope-pop with a Nordic chill in its bones. Her new album, Twist the Truth, sticks to the formula, albeit with some starker arrangements and a wider macabre streak. You Could Have reproaches the listener for failing to protect an unnamed "her" - but from what? Between the murkily figurative lyrics and some garbled diction it's difficult to say, though talk about screaming and scars suggest it was pretty horrid. You Will Cry No More, on the other hand, talks up death's release ("Your fight has ended now", you lucky thing) over a soft marching beat and a backing of sweet-voiced male harmonies. It sounds faintly like the Beach Boys if the Beach Boys were tired of life. There are rays of light. Have I Ever Told You, for instance, gives thanks for "all the good things you gave me" over playful brass and a nimble Buddha Bar bass line. Before long, though, the clouds are gathering and we're back to pain, rue and shivers of acoustic guitar. If there's any justice, Marlin will be showing up on a Wallander soundtrack some time soon.