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Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2003
Ladytron: "Light & Magic"
By ROWAN HOOPER
'They only want you when you're 17. When you're 21 you're no fun." This song, "Seventeen," the first single from their new album "Light & Magic," sums up what Ladytron are all about. Their lyrics can be cruel and direct ("Seventeen" is an indictment of the Lolita values of modeling agencies), but they are set to swirling, analog synths. The end result is lush, poppy, haunting electronic music with a harsh dystopian edge.
Ladytron lift half of their name from Disney's 1982 sci-fi/computer movie "Tron," but their links with that decade go much deeper. Their sound recalls the synthesizer-based music of the '80s, particularly that of late-period Kraftwerk, but also of Gary Numan, who is currently enjoying critical career reappraisal.
If that puts you off, it shouldn't. The new album stands out for its reinterpretation of the '80s synth sound. Recorded in Los Angeles on vintage equipment and produced by Beck and Beastie Boys maestro Mickey Petralia, "Light & Magic," is entirely fresh, but if pressed for a reference, I'd say that Ladytron are an Eastern European New Order with girl singers.
Starting as the dream of Liverpool friends Danny Hunt and Reuben Wu, Ladytron became a reality when the duo met the ubercool Mira Aroyo and Helen Marnie in Eastern Europe. The foursome all had the same haircuts, but they also had the same vision: to reacquaint the masses with analog synths. In 2001, Ladytron released their first album, "604." To their surprise it quickly became the measure by which the albums of other electro-clash, nu-electro and synthcore bands were judged. Synth outfits like Felix Da Housecat and Tiga call Ladytron inspirational.
Tracks on "Light & Magic," including "Cracked LCD," "Evil" and "Cease2xist," are scary but insistent and irresistible -- simple synth pop that creeps inside your head. Ladytron might have their roots in the '80s, but they are looking to the future. As they say on "Startup Chime":
"When the AC hum inside your sleepy head/Drives a startup chime inside your heart/Technology is there to cure yourself/This is where it has to start."