Tag Archives: lara croft

“My automatic melancholy” – the all-too-short pop career of Lara Croft

Rhona Mitra as Lara Croft

At the height of the Tomb Raider games’ success, and before a film had been made, a succession of actresses, models and promo girls — including a young Katie Price — queued up to be the real life face of Lara Croft. And somehow one of them, Rhona Mitra, ended up making an in-character pop CD with Dave Stewart.

come alive

Come Alive came out on EMI in 1998, between Tomb Raider II (the one with the Venice and sunken ship levels) and Tomb Raider III (the one where Lara keeps getting run over by a tube train). It only went on general release in France, and there’s so little about it on the web you’d think someone had tried to quietly erase it from pop history.

Most of the songs have a post-Madchester, indie dance vibe with flashes of guitar, landing on a sound somewhere between Sneaker Pimps and Chumbawamba. There’s even the occasional ragga toast. So far so 90s. But what about the subject matter?

Brilliantly, Lara sings about her own fictionality, her longings for a physical life and her confusing symbiotic relationship with you the gamer. In this way it very much picks up the metafictional baton from the ending of Tomb Raider II, in which Lara, about to undress for the shower, magnificently breaks the fourth wall by turning to face you and shooting you dead, saying “Don’t you think you’ve seen enough?”

Lead single Getting Naked follows the same template, teasing nudity while admonishing the listener “I know you want to be my lover boy, but I’ve got a lot of things going on.” And the balance between titillation and domination continues in songs like Beautiful Day where every seductive “Tell me all your fantasies and I’ll tell you mine,” is set off by a stern “I’ll do what I want to.”

The prospect of physical love rears its head in Really Real in which a somewhat listless Lara breathes “I’m real! Really real! Just like you!” While in the next song, Feel Myself, she does what any of us would after making the transition from digitised form and proceeds to “Feel myself for the first time,” complete with some little panting noises. Charmingly, she describes her self exploration in terms any gamer will understand, giggling “Moved on to level 2!”

The album’s themes peak on title track Come Alive, in which Lara muses on her life as a pixellated puppet. “I see myself up on a wall,” it opens over some lovely downbeat electro. She goes on to consider her “fated path,” reflecting “all the walls that I was climbing, all the time that I spent falling… and all was fine when I was drowning.”

The whole thing’s a triumph. A very odd triumph, to be sure, but then those are my favourite sorts. It’s a rare album that lets you hear an iconic video game character sing come-hither lyrics about “fish and chips in Streatham” and “a pint of lager & lime” and somehow carry it off, but this is the one. In case you hadn’t noticed, I spend every other post on this blog deliberately muddling fictional things and real ones (with hilarious consequences etc etc), so once in a while it’s nice to find a piece of pop culture that’s managed it all on its own. And is real — really real.

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Lana del Rey’s Born to Die: Picture & Infographic Special

Llama del Rey. Llama del Rey. You can’t turn a corner on the internet without running into a picture of Lana del Rey mocked up as a llama. The only thing annoying me about this is that everyone else got there before me, when it’s the sort of weak pun/visual gag that this blog was invented for. So I’ve had to come up with some of my own. And along the way I’ll explain the album with some helpful CHARTS and FACTS.

Lana del Ray

Weather forecast

If there’s one thing Lana likes to sing about more than kissing and reckless love, it’s the weather. It’s always summertime in her songs, but as the lyrics tell us, conditions are very changeable.

Lana del Howards' Way

Travel advice

If there’s one thing Lana likes to sing about more than kissing, reckless love and the weather, it’s the places she’s been. Now YOU can travel in her footsteps with this handy guide to visiting all the locations mentioned in the album, in order!

Dana del Rey / Lana del Hay / Lara del Raider

Fashion

If there’s one thing Lana likes to sing about more than kissing, reckless love, the weather and travel, it’s clothes. Hardly a song goes by without her telling us what she’s wearing. Mix and match your own Lana del Rey capsule wardrobe with this chart showing which outfits she mentions the most! NB: I’ve not included any accessories or make-up. We’d be here all bloody day.

Lana del Ray... Ray... Radiation Wave Meter!

Quantum Archaeology

“Life insurance?” “I don’t need any!” says Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, which the BBC thoughtfully put on just after blowing the London Eye to smithereens in a mushroom cloud of fireworks for a New Year’s treat. I like the two Tomb Raider films; there’s no point making a film based on video games unless you’re going to — accurately and/or excitingly — recreate the sorts of scenarios you go through in the games, and they certainly manage that. But in Lara’s smug assurance that she can survive anything, she puts her finger on the one thing that’s missing.

Another night on the tiles

When you play Tomb Raider, your overwhelming experience is of dying, over and over again. That impossible series of jumps that has you plummeting to a spiky death at every new point, those flooded tunnels that gently and continually drown you until you find the exit, that stony monster whose weak point is so hard to find and target.

The closest thing in fiction to the feeling that I’m describing is in 90s SF novel Quarantine by Greg Egan, in which the lead character finds a way to choose from multiple quantum states (OR SOMETHING, IT’S QUITE TECHNICAL) so that he can — for instance — make sure he ends up being the version of himself, out of all possible realities, who finds a million-to-one lock combination or has the good luck for all the guards to be looking the other way.

And that’s the version of Lara we see in the movies, the one who, implausibly, survives every trap and dodges every bullet the first time around. Like a perfect YouTube walkthrough, but without the exhausting months of exploration and practice that go into them. There’s a bit in Quarantine where you get brilliantly wrongfooted, and find yourself following a luckless version of the main character in a universe that doesn’t get chosen as the final reality. It’s dizzying. And that’s the sort of video game film adaptation I’d really like to see. With the main character dying over and over again in cruelly inventive ways, then coming back to life a few seconds earlier for another go. I haven’t seen the film of Prince of Persia, though its game mechanics of rewinding time in the sticky spots would lend itself to this idea perfectly, because frankly it looks shit. So if someone could sort out something decent along these lines this year that would be great, cheers.