Review Summary: So good it’s bad
It’s easy to forget that Ladytron
sounded very different at the start. There was no polished production, guitars or tall walls of sound. It was harsh minimal bleeps and bloops reminiscent of 8-bit gaming consoles, early synthesizers and Perestroika’s Eastern Bloc. A sound of nostalgia for a time where analog and digital still existed side by side. The later leap between Light & Magic
and Witching Hour
was so big that without vocals and signature “aaaAAAA’s”, you wouldn’t know it’s the same band. The change between Gravity The Seducer
is not as big, but it’s welcome. The band is at a stage where where many other experienced bands were in – after making a polarizing experimental album, they’re looking back at their roots while embracing the new. In Ladytron case, this means removal of guitars, return of Retro (capital R as in Very) synthesizer sound, mixed with 80’s tinny beats, all wrapped up in a familiar soft, ethereal sound of the Gravity
. When an album ends up as self-titled, it’s either because a fitting name didn’t come up or because it’s meant to signify a change in sound, to make a statement “this is us now”. Ladytron
fits the latter perfectly.
While the album as a whole has a strong unified aesthetic, unfortunately there aren’t any strong tracks. If you didn’t like Gravity
because of this, you may be be even more indifferent here. Ladytron were at their best when crafting memorable electro pop singles. The tracks here aren’t catchy enough to be played on repeat nor are they experimental enough to reward repeated listens either. It’s a great background music for hip stores and fashion shows. The intro hook of “The Island” is as memorable as it’s going to get. Well, “Horrorscope” will raise your eyebrow with its short repeating lyrics and dissonant vocal harmonies of Mira and Helen singing together. That track embodies the whole album – you can’t tell whether to love or hate it.
Finally, while the “retro aesthetic v2” gimmick earns points for being interesting, it’s a question of how well it will hold up in the future. 604
still sounds cool 18 years later because its “retro aesthetic v1” was almost ironic, like Vaporwave. Lo-fi production helped it mask the imperfections just like stylized cartoon graphics help some video games to forever look good. Meanwhile Ladytron
imitating polished production may go out of style just like Synthwave. That, and a lack of memorable tracks that 20 years later would receive comments on their Youtube videos along the lines of “who’s listening to this in 2040?”. I don’t want to end the review on such a negative note though. Ladytron
is definitely a grower and it grew on me over the past 2 months and 30 listens. It’s not a lazy effort, it’s not safe or by-the-numbers. It has a heart and soul. But those heart and soul are even weirder than Gravity
, so you should check this one for yourself. Great cover art, by the way.