Renewed assurance is clear from the start of their seventh album, with their sound expanded to massive dimensions with great swathes of synthesized colour
As Ladytron move into their third decade of making music, they do so with the assurance that their music can cross generations. While second album Light & Magic was recently indulged with a 20th anniversary reissue, Seventeen – one of its key songs – was being introduced to a whole new audience through TikTok. The song went viral, and its standout lyric, “They only want you when you’re seventeen, when you’re twenty-one, you’re no fun”, carried a telling message.
Helen Marnie, Mira Aroyo, Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu are more than double that age now, but seem to be having more musical fun than ever, part of a band whose star is burning ever brighter. Seventh album Time’s Arrow finds them in a confident place, ready to expand their synth pop to massive dimensions as they add great swathes of synthesized colour.
The renewed assurance is clear from the start, and a strong hit from the 1-2 of City Of Angels and Faces. The latter has straightforward yet thought provoking lyrics, capturing the dark and impersonal nature of city life but lighting up when sighting a familiar face. The band’s strong posture is backed up by The Night, a nocturnal beauty that simmers with menace as Marnie confesses how “I wanted to hurt you. I can feel you under my skin”.
While they prowl the streets on the uptempo numbers, Marnie and Aroyo find a more vulnerable outlook elsewhere. The Dreamers is reminiscent of Cocteau Twins, wrapped up in cotton wool but taking time out to gaze up at the stars. Misery Remember Me bathes Marnie’s voice in bright keyboard tones, with indiscriminate shapes but bright, wavy lines as the vocals float above. The shoegaze textures become even more expansive on We Never Went Away, with the lyrical frisson of its warning to “kiss me when the coast is clear”.
The track names of Time’s Arrow reflect the band’s cosmopolitan recording process, making some of their contributions during lockdown from opposite corners of the globe. Flight From Angkor is dressed with bubbling keyboards and a stately treble, while the sundrenched California dazzles with bright lights and a massive, scorched backdrop. Sometimes the big production can be overpowering, but it does lead to intriguing moments such as those on Sargasso Sea, which pairs the elegance of Roxy Music with some questioning harmonies. Emotions are cool on occasion during the album, but here the band speak with real urgency.
Time’s Arrow, the closing title track, has a slowed-down, glam rock gait that takes the listener full circle round to the start. In that time the band have fully reasserted themselves, taking equal parts past and future to make a record that fits the present day like a glove. Twenty years in and the fires are still burning brightly.