Tuesday, June 3, 2008

See Tim Review: Ladytron's Velocifero!!

Ladytron, just off the assembly line in 2000

Anyone who knows me will tell you, I've always been a sucker for a band in uniform. It's one of the main reasons why Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is my favorite Beatles album, even though I've never really listened to it. It's why I love the Pointer Sisters. It's why Prince and his Revolution really struck a chord. Add to the uniform the mimicry of robots, and I'm totally sold (Kraftwerk, Devo--front of the line). So when the four members of Ladytron emerged in 2000 wearing matching black cargo suits of the future, playing analog synths, and displaying the emotional unavailability of Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner, I was theirs for the taking.

Two manmachines (Daniel Hunt, Reuben Wu). Two fembots (Mira Aroyo, Helen Marnie). An Asian. A Bulgarian. Based in Liverpool. With a moniker that sounds like a futuristic pleasure device. What more could you want from a band?

Well, okay, music. But the ‘tron had that covered. Their first two albums, 604 and Light and Magic, were awash in cold synths and even colder ennui. Take this lyric from “Discotraxx”:

I know her, used to follow everywhere we’d go
And it’s so sweet, now she’s sleeping with a boy I know
The boy I know knows a pretty girl in every town
And the way they look, they were made to let each other down.

Dang, that’s cold. I like it. It was this lyrical bite that gave Ladytron, whose music was by and large quite beautiful, a below-the-belt kick.

Mira and Helen at the dog park in the off-world colony of Zambartylfyork

But it was on the band’s third album Witching Hour that their android hearts began to pump real blood, causing their waxy exoskeletons to allow a blush of passion to cross their sad, sad faces. Or something. Anyway, the album oozed fever, disharmony, and regret. It was their Disintegration, their Violator, their Juju, the album on which all of their strengths coalesced into one solid, ginormous cinematic opus. The sly humor was still there (“If I give you sugar will you give me/Something elusive and temporary?”), but only in short, sharp bursts. On Witching Hour the band was really going for it, simultaneously shoegazing and cloudbusting. But I should stop before I go over the top. So, what about new album Velocifero?

The band being attacked by deadly space squids on the cover of their new album

It’s Velocifegreat! Sure, there’s nothing new here, but I’m perfectly willing to let them rest on their laurels for a while. They’re tired! The band may no longer adhere to their original dress code, but thankfully the reliably melodic and expansive music makes up for the band’s disappointing lack of sartorial discipline. New single “Ghosts” creeps up on you (sorry, but it does), “I’m Not Scared” is sweetly spooky, “Burning Up” is a siren’s lament. So much drama. So much. Sadly, there aren’t too many laughs to be enjoyed this go round. But at least there’s lots of Bulgarian (“Black Cat,” “Kletva”). Well, not lots, but a good amount. Definitely more than Kraftwerk or Devo ever brought.

So there you are: Velocifero. One small step for Ladytron, one giant leap in the air for me.

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