Lana Del Rey broke out earlier this decade by updating the sound of 20th century indie acts like Cocteau Twins and Mazzy Star, but with much of the mystery leeched out. Lately she’s been shapeshifting a bit, and that’s a good thing. There was her cameo on Cat Power’s “Woman,” a left-field collaboration and solidarity anthem. Her latest, “Venice Bitch,” is a woozily epic love song invoking Norman Rockwell, fading summers, getting high, and “Crimson and Clover” (tho it’s unclear if she’s referring to the Tommy James and the Shondells or Joan Jett and the Blackhearts versions). It’s Lana pro forma, yet her star-spangled nostalgia feels sadder, and deeper. Credit both current events and delivery. “You’re beautiful and I’m insane/We’re American made,” she coos, with “oohs,” “ahhs” and verse fragment incanted hypnotically over ghostly electric guitar noise, snakey prog-rock synths and splash-cymbal dramatics. It’s the most experimental music she’s ever made, and finally fades out after nine and a half minutes. And still it feels too short.
The effect is magnified in the video, a collage of vintage Super 8-style freeway footage, faded, flashed, fogged, looped and sped up, intercut with weathered images of Lana hanging on her smartphone, or goofing around in a pickup bed with some hoodrat friends, trailed by what looks like a police car. But the cops turn out to be fake, it seems. You can’t trust anyone these days.