Life is full of surprises. Most surprises are horrible, but every now and then we stumble upon something truly great. Last year I discovered the band Ladytron by way of the Ministry of Sound This Is Tech-Pop compilation. Chances are you've heard of "Tech-pop" before, maybe by a different name: "Electroclash," "Synth-core," or "Neu-electro" - whatever you want to call it, we now have a new genre to deal with. Of course there's nothing new about "Tech-pop," which owes a great deal to 1980's new wave and synthpop bands like Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Soft Cell, as well as other genres: trip-hop, techno, house, industrial, even freestyle - you name it, there's a little bit in the mix. What can you expect from "Tech-pop:" drum machines, sequenced synths, a welcome absence of guitar, sexy vocals and seemingly unattainable European Goddesses in well-tailored black uniforms. A perfect mix of class and decadence, technology and humanity.
The important thing is: you now have a new genre of music that goes well with black clothes and eye liner - and I'm not talking about your decrepit dark gray Skinny Puppy t-shirts either. Sometime in the late 1980s people forgot about the future and started dressing like lumberjacks, janitors and prisoners. It's the 21st century and it's time to get back on track. I'm sick of bands that are common, "down to earth" and "just like me." I want pop stars to be aloof and unapproachable, decadent and divine, someone to idolize and aspire to be like - drug-guzzling, celebrity nuzzling, limo riding, resort infesting - someone like Felix Da Housecat, Miss Kitten or, best of all, Ladytron.
Ladytron is made up of two ladies and two dudes, all dressed from head to toe in classy black uniforms. Kind of like Devo at a funeral. The ladies sing and play keyboards and the dudes just play keyboards. One of the ladies - and this is the best part - sounds exactly like Kim Deal of the Pixies/Breeders. Ladytron's music is all electronics: synthesizers, keyboards, drum machines, sequencers, cables, filters and computers. Memorable melodies are played with robotic pop perfection. Never too experimental, and never boring.
In classic electronic pop style, modern technology plays an integral part in Ladytron's lyrics. Pioneers like Gary Numan (think Cars) and Kraftwerk (think Pocket Calculator) would be proud. LCD watches, air conditioners, Commodore computers, telephones, plastic furniture, cell phone ring tones, voicemail, credit cards and Xerox machines all find their way into Ladytron songs. From StartupChime:
When the AC hum inside your sleepy head,
Drowns the startup chime inside your heart,
Technology is there to cure yourself,
this is where it has to start.
More Light & Magic:
Seventeen is an infectious pop gem about the realities of fashion modeling. I can't think of a song that has less to do with my life - and yet I enjoy it immensely. Maybe it's the delicious melody, the sexy chick vocals, or maybe I'm insane.
Flicking Your Switch: A nice story about a credit card theft set to robotically precise Euro-techno. "Does this mean you don't trust me any more?" Of course not - but you're so cute, we forgive you.
Turn It On: Classic "cyberfunk." Artificial voices, beats just north of funky and Krafwerkian keyboards make for a mix Africa Bambada would die for.
Blue Jeans: A trip-hop beat and 1960's Euro-soundtrack sounds float beneath infectious melodies. Imagine Portishead on Wellbutrin. Blue Jeans features some tasty yet tasteful keyboard soloing as well.
Cracked LCD: Literally a song about a guy who falls asleep with an LCD display wristwatch on and the display breaks. This has happened to me. I can totally relate.
Black Plastic: "Black plastic, touching black plastic" reminds me of the infatuation the characters in the book Crash had with the plastic, metal and "leatherette" of the cars they drove (and crashed). A nice thematic segue to The Normal's Warm Leatherette.
Light & Magic was the essential album of 2002, if you're a fan of electronic pop music buy it today - put it in your CD player and pretend it's the 1980's instead of shitty 2003. If you decide you like Ladytron, check out Felix the Housecat, Miss Kitten, Spoonerfischer and recent releases by Bis.