Tuesday, 10 June 2008

LADYTRON: I'm Not Scared

Congratulations are surely due to Ladytron for finally breaching the album chart at their fourth attempt - true, the album has debuted at #75 in the Top 75, and I wouldn't place a bet on it racking up a second week on the list, but it does represent an important breakthrough, as does Velocifero as a record. The quartet's musical world is now securely insecure; never have they sounded bolder or louder; never have they sounded so scared or quiet. There is a tremendous, poignant twinge to their not-as-hard-as-it-sounds post-electro/post-shoegazing/post-Goth (only just) intimately epic pop which hasn't been heard for some while; I think back to the very early British indie nineties, and certainly to Lush (with naturally sad meditations on where they could have gone if only *...*), but also to less immediately celebrated operatives of the time; my wife has already suggested the Heart Throbs, former Mark Radcliffe Show favourites who haven't been heard from for a decade and a half but briefly threatened to impose with superbly dense songs like "Dreamtime" (the answer to the under-asked question: the public opted for the more easily digestible cod-indie of the Cranberries).

Velocifero is similarly intense but light; the thunderous organ chords which prevail throughout "They Gave You A Heart, They Gave You A Name" provide an unlikely but logical reminder of Aaliyah's "We Have A Resolution" (but I see that many record shops have now opted to file Ladytron under "Dance"). They've gone electro, yet the closing "Versus" which affords the chance to hear both girls and boys singing, is more tender than gravity has a logical right to allow.

But "I'm Not Scared" is the one to which I've gone back approximately three dozen times to date - it isn't the Pet Shop Boys/Patsy K number, but its booming imperiousness is certainly influenced by the PSBs as much as whatever New Order or Miss Kittin or Blonde Redhead or Slowdive contributed to the fabric; throne-like double-patterning drums, fencing with themselves, a 1965 echo of what a synthesiser might produce, the very Lush-like vocal sadly shaking its mind over the over-rolling stone which it is trying to charm back to serenity: "January clipped your wires/The summer went straight through your tyres/Every faded sign that passed you/Used to point the way towards you."

And then the chorus manifests and it is glorious; successive trapdoors of dreamlike chord changes, a post-"Atomic" grandeur of the boldest bronze, high vocal dabs alternating with Fairlight phantoms before the storm continues to gather dust (even though there's a divine one-beat pause at 1:49 to allow everyone to catch their breath before resuming their charge), warning of the over-reliance on "the generosity of strangers" and the vital need to return again: "And you've gone - you know that I'm not scared to go home." Give up, climb out of that empty ring, wave the generous flag of white, come back, stop being a fool and the tank of the music rolls on, indestructible yet ineffably fragile.