Ladytron - Witching Hour (Island)
Glacial, stylish and majestic. These are words quite rightly bandied about when speaking of British based electro-pop outfit Ladytron
Founded in Liverpool in 1998, Scousers Danny & Reuben joined forces with Scot Helen and Bulgarian Mira to pursue a then unfashionable brand of electro-pop which, seven years later, now seems to dominate the charts. Despite this, with 2 albums under their belt, the band are probably best known for their 2001 club hit 'Seventeen' but have remained tantalizingly teetering on the edge of mainstream.
Witching Hour marks a new chapter in their history. It's the first album on a major label and it's got a harder sound than their previous material with Jim Arova (Placebo, Kasabian) at the helm as producer. The change is evident as soon as the album opens with High Rise confidently ditching the traditional twinkly sounds and doing more things with synths & drums than we thought Ladytron capable of. The band claim that this wasn't a conscious decision - they didn't suddenly decide to make a rockier album, it just kind of happened.
The standout track is Destroy Everything You Touch, a powerful piece of industrial pop that should have been setting the charts alight for months. Instead due to a lack of radio support from everyone except XFM, it limped in at number 54. Bold and pounding, while maintaining accessibility, this chart position is simply unbelievable, but thankfully it is most likely to be getting a re-release sometime next year.
For a band so oft accused of being detached and cold, this album is filled with emotion, from the forcefulness of Destroy to the snarl of Mira's Bulgarian sung Fighting in Built Up Areas. Other favorites include mid-tempo ballad Last One Standing and the swirling synths of Weekend which return Ladytron to their favourite subject of dejection vs nights on the dancefloor.
If you love Ladytron, you’ll love this album. If you don’t, then you really need to give them a chance. Witching Hour is probably the most accessible thing they’ve done, and it is certainly an album that grows on you unknowingly. Then when you’ve realized how great they are, go back in time and listen to their first two albums. You’ll be wondering how you survived so long without Playgirl and Blue Jeans in your life. Londonist album of the week.
A stream of the video for current single 'Destroy Everything You Touch' is available via contact music here
Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better (Domino)
After the extraordinary success of album number 1, there was always a sense of impending doom that a second album could never live up to expectations. But put those fears aside, for You Could Have It So Much Better takes the Franz Ferdinand punky guitar model and does new interesting things with it. They haven't suddenly decided they are going to become oh so serious, with no track clocking in at longer than just over 4 minutes, nor have they lost the fun and vibrancy that made us love them in the first place. The change comes, most obviously, in production values. While Franz Ferdinand had a sparse, raw sound, this album has a much richer and fuller feel, brought into place by Mars Volta producer Rich Costley.
This change of production values is shown most vividly by Eleanor Put Your Boots Back On - a sentimental piano based ballad in which Alex sings yearningly of a woman he loves across the pond. Here the guitars take a backing role and it's the strength of Kapranos' voice that shines through. Even more traditionally sounding Franz tracks like title song You Could Have It So Much Better are presented with a heavier, thicker sound reminiscent of late Pixies material.
Repeatedly toying with homoerotic themes, ("Your famous friend well I blew him before ya"), Kapranos' lyrics continue to mystify and tantalise, most notably in the traditional Franz sounding This Boy.
But here in the Londonist Music Dungeon, it's the melancholy Walk Away that leaving the most lasting impression. slowly building to a determined chorus, Alex sings about the breakup of a relationship, insincerely comparing it to the falling of the Kremlin. And if you can, find the acoustic version of the song (it's out there somewhere), as it's even more beautiful than the radio edit.
But it's not all good with fans and critics alike seemingly divided by
this album. Lead single Do You Want To has left some feeling cold, and while it's fantastic to dance to at your local indie disco, you can't help but feel it's a bit of a comedy song when hearing it on the radio. Londonist can quite vividly imagine it being used as the
soundtrack to a 'Carry on...' sketch with a dirtily laughing Sid James
mucking about with Barbara Windsor (yes, probably just us).
The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike (reissue)
Londonist approached the reissue of The Go! Team’s much-lauded debut with a sense of foreboding. The ‘Team are a London/Brighton boy/girl collective, led by sample-fiend Ian Parton and fronted by the boisterous MC Ninja. Originally released twelve months ago, Thunder, Lightning, Strike was met with a healthy round of applause, with Radio 1’s Zane Lowe clapping the loudest. The hubbub continued to grow apace, and culminated in a place on 2005’s Mercury Music Prize shortlist. All well and good, you might say, and fully deserved. But this is where things started to look ominous.
The band’s Mercury performance was exaggerated to say the least (where did the breakdancing cheerleaders spring from?), and a butchered re-release of their best-loved single followed shortly after. Bottle Rocket take two is wholly overdone: the looping horn sample has lost its charm, Ninja’s rap has been completely rehashed, and the chorus sounds just plain cheesy.
Sadly, it’s the inferior Bottle Rocket which makes the cut on this reissue. But, with the exception of two new additions - We Just Won’t Be Defeated and Hold Yr Terror Close both being odes to London, presumably - the bulk of Thunder, Lightning, Strike remains unchanged. It’s no secret that the album’s genius lies in its battered lo-fi production. Thankfully, the frantic flurry of noise that made it such an exhilarating listen first time around has been preserved. Vintage samples, tinny beats, playground raps and schoolroom instruments (hands up who still plays their recorder?) all collide brilliantly to form a cut-and-shut barrage of sound.
Despite the ‘Team’s meddling, this is still the boldest debut record the UK has seen for years. If you already own the original, give yourself a pat on the back and smugly ignore this edition. If you don’t, and you’re after something motivational to help you up the left side of the escalator, this is the one for you.
Soulfly - Dark Ages (Roadrunner)
Bad day? Pissed off at the world, can't stand the site of your significant other, dreaming of your boss's head on the end of stick? Two steps from going postal?Well fear not dear readers for redemption is at hand. The cold winds of the apocalypse blow through a twenty first century wasteland that's surely not too far away, until suddenly the drum beats rain down like cluster bombs on a fourth of July party, guitars spitting fury from the barrel of an M60. It's apparent that Max Calvalera's vision of Babylon is far from cocktails and canapes on the beach.
New band new anger; Soulfly has always been an ongoing experiment for ex Sepaltura main man and Brazilian thrash metal supremo Calvalera in pushing the boundaries of metal. Fifth outing Dark Ages sees the band return to punishing form. Calvalera's primal roar is the sound of the Demon lord on the album cover sucking the souls from the innocent victims of mankind's folly. The music is hard and very, very, very fucking heavy. It spits righteous indignation at the war mongers and politicians who serve them. But make no mistake, this is no senseless fury of noise. Calvalera's mission to blend global roots styles with the pure agression of thrash metal this time sees him exploring Eastern European influences throughout. Tribal drums, rhythms and strings underpin much of the record; particularly effective building the tension before the chaotic firefight of Riotstarter. System Of A Down are currently the only other band working thrash with the same inventiveness but they just can't match the sheer brutality on display here.
This is an album to get angry to but not to commit anger to. This is catharsis to the shit hole that's been created around us without our consent. No matter how dark the vision of endless soon to be bodybags sent off to war in Frontlines there's still a glimmer of hope with Staystrong. The Dark Ages may be upon us but as Max growls over (The) March:
It's up to us, it's up to us...
In a word: totally fucking awesome, and a reason to get excited about metal again. With new work from SOAD and Mastodon on the horizon it's time to kick these skinny arse guitar popsters back to Camden. Dark Ages is currently being streamed here