When discussions arise about twenty-first century innovators in music, Ladytron‘s name gets missed far too often. Which is a crying shame as their single-minded approach at crafting intelligent, electronic pop with a leftfield twist deserves its place on the highest pedestal. From 2001’s debut 604 – a record which felt like a breath of fresh air against an onslaught of homogeneous nu metal and acoustic drudgery – to their most recent long player Gravity the Seducer a decade later, they’ve continued to surprise, inspire and more often than not, shine like stars in an otherwise murky sky.
However, nearly eight years have passed since the aforementioned Gravity…, and in with the musical landscape changing at a rate of knots ever since, is there a place for Ladytron in 2019? Of course the simple answer is YES. In fact, there’s probably never been a better time for them to return.
Nevertheless, an understandable degree of trepidation between releases – not to mention a parting of ways with previous label Nettwerk – left the band unsure themselves whether their fanbase would still care. So last March, the band announced their sixth album was ready to go via Pledgemusic and while fans snapped up the various packages on offer in droves, it also alerted Berlin electronic specialists !K7 to the fact Ladytron were currently without a label.
Eleven months later, Ladytron is finally with us. A record that’s undeniably more immediate than its predecessor, as each of its first three singles suggested. If ‘The Animals’ and ‘The Island’ heralded a switch back to the more dancefloor friendly vibe as 2002’s Light & Magic or third record Witching Hour from 2005, Ladytron is anything but a formulaic exercise. Experimental digressions punctuate the album throughout, such as on the Germanic ‘Run’ or recent 45 ‘Far From Home’, which takes a more intrinsic journey than its aforementioned predecessors.
As with the band’s previous output, vocals are shared between Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo, and their good cop/bad cop approach works wonders here. Two of Aroyo’s lead contributions ‘Paper Highways’ and ‘Horrorscope’ stand out as Ladytron‘s finest moments, not least by way of the political overtones thematic in their lyrics.
Elsewhere, Marnie’s ‘You’ve Changed’ could be the sonically ambivalent sibling to Lady GaGa’s ‘Bad Romance’, while closing couplet ‘The Mountain’ and ‘Tomorrow Is Another Day’ recall Abba’s ‘The Day Before You Came’ and M83 in their Before the Dawn Heals Us phase. At 13 songs it’s an eventful ride and one that takes repeated listens to really click but once it does, Ladytron makes all the right noises in all the right places.
With all four members based in different parts of the world right now – Marnie and Aroyo reside in Glasgow and London, while Reuben Wu and Daniel Hunt find themselves over the other side of the world in Chicago and Brazil respectively – it’s difficult to predict when or where the next chapter might emerge. Nevertheless, it’s great to have them back, and Ladytron is another fine addition to an already impressive body of work.