Witching Hour, Bulgaria-via-Hong Kong-to-Liverpool electro foursome Ladytron’s third album and first for a major label, is an immediate surprise. The opening bars feature guitar and open out to become the biggest sound the band have yet achieved. Into a murky background have fled the studied precision electronics of debut album 604 and follow-up Light and Magic.
It’s like Phil Spector‘s production and Death In Vegas‘s edgy dirge had tried their hands at reinvention in a New Wave outfit. And if you’re going to sound just a little like My Bloody Valentine, you might as well be named after a Roxy Music song.
Ladytron, exponents of vintage synths, have found space in their arrangements not only for vocalists Mira Aroyo and Helena Marnie but guitars and Hammond organ too to party up the Monster From The Id squeals. Weekend does what Clinic were doing a few years back to better effect – soundtracking a nightclub comedown via dark, mysterious and possibly dangerous alleyways.
From an auspicious start do grander things come as the utterly infectious Destroy Everything You Touch rolls along like a steamroller, laser guns firing in the background. It’s nothing less than a pop song, albeit with those gloriously sleazy atmospherics Ladytron do so well making it of more than fleeting interest.
Only on the decidedly odd CMYK – sort of a Jean Michel Jarre filler track that goes nowhere – does Witching Hour fail to score, but there’s more pop fodder to fizz with standout Sugar – the Monster from the Id is back for another howling rampage – while the title track is a gloriously grand soundtrack to a lost film noir.
Even more fun is the (maybe) Bulgarian language Fighting In Built Up Areas, but lovers of the English language will likely enjoy Last One Standing more. It is yet a third obvious single. White Light Generator, meanwhile, is a sublime dirge that wouldn’t be as interesting without a prominent guitar section and tambourine in what must be Ladytron’s least electronic track yet. All The Way, by contrast, is a warm, alluring encore-friendly piece to send happy punters home to.
Ladytron were a good band before, but Witching Hour is the sort of third album step-up of which rock’n'roll dreams are made. More than that, it lights a path for other electro acts ripping off mainstream ’80s music the way to that decade’s darker edges. Ominous, alluring and human, Witching Hour is fine stuff.