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The Internet Will Salmon , May 3rd, 2021 09:06

With a touch of old school Hollywood glamour, the debut album from new Italians Do It Better signing Glüme makes for a subtly strange and alluring record, finds Will Salmon

Marilyn Monroe was twenty-four when she met Arthur Miller and began an affair that eventually became a marriage and later a bitter divorce. Although it’s wild to think of it now, at the time, he was the famous one, a giant of American theatre, while she was still a young model trying to find her way in a cutthroat business. Of course, all that would rapidly change as Norma Jeane Mortenson ditched her birth name and became Hollywood's brightest star in the process.

Monroe and Miller are objects of fascination for Glüme, the latest signing to Johnny Jewel’s none-more-chic Italians Do It Better label – so much so that she jokingly refers to herself as “Walmart Marilyn” on her Instagram. It’s easy to see why. Like her idol, Glüme was born and raised in LA, drifting into Hollywood’s orbit at a young age. She was a child actor and later a voice-over artist before self-actualising as a fascinatingly odd pop star.

Debut album The Internet radiates a glamour and tragedy that echoes the subject matter that Lana Del Rey popularised, but there’s a specificity to Glüme’s catalogue of obsessions – the darker side of Hollywood, the blurring of lines between online life and reality, intense romantic longing and the impact of living with a chronic illness – that makes for a subtly strange and alluring record.

There’s a timeless feel to the music here, which moves between decades from the 50s to the present day. Opener ‘Arthur Miller’ (yeah, him again) is a delicately-arranged torch song set against a backing of funereal organ that both eulogises Monroe and seethes at the cruelty inflicted on her. ‘Heatwave’ feels like a lost cut from Julee Cruise’s 90s dream pop touchstone, Floating Into The Night, though their voices are quite different. And ‘Crushed Velvet’ is pure 2021, a slick seduction over woozy synth pads that glances towards AG Cook’s production work.

Lyrically, her health issues loom large throughout, most clearly on ‘Body’, which sounds dreamily romantic, but the imagery – “I can feel (I am bleeding) / I am bleeding (I’m not whispering) / I’m not whispering (It’s a scream)” – is a visceral grounding in her experiences with prinzmetal angina, the heart disease she was diagnosed with some years ago.

There are other reminders scattered throughout. ‘Get Low’ is an absolute monster of a tune – all throbbing bass and sheering synth with a touch of Tubeway Army – but it’s lyrics again root the song in physical anxiety. “You light up my nervous system / Save me from this autonomic prison.” The closing ‘Chemicals’ crystallises the album’s big theme, exploring – or perhaps exorcising – these painful experiences through the metaphor of love songs about crumbling relationships.

Although there are layers of artifice at work on the record – a meticulously crafted image as an out-of-time tap dancing outsider, no hint of her real name (if not exactly a secret, it feels irrelevant to the work at hand) – she uses this as cover to say things that feel intimate and truthful to her own experiences.

All of which probably makes The Internet sound heavy, but it’s also an intoxicating avant pop album. Single ‘What Is A Feeling’ is catchy as hell, bouncing along a Carpenter-esque synth line, while ‘Nervous Breakdown’ gives Glüme the chance to break out of her typically hushed register and show off a more strident vocal performance as she struggles with mixed messages from a confusing partner. Shot through with moments of joy and sorrow, The Internet is a warm and welcoming set of soft goth bangers for the lovesick and the lonely.