While Ladytron's look recalls Twiggy, Warhol, and '60s London, its members play keyboards like Stereolab, a band that swiped from earlier groups like Neu! and Faust. This is no simple revival, however: It is as if, after a field trip through electronic music's natural history museum, Ladytron wrote a term paper compiling each era's best moments. "He Took Her to a Movie" is a song that references Kraftwerk's cold keyboard sound, but also imbues it with new life by grafting a woman's ambiguous sexual orientation onto it; when Bulgarian native Mira Aroyo sings, "He took her to a movie/ But so did I," the song becomes something old and new.
Ladytron's lyrics present a dystopia of romantic relations, although the deceptive ease of the music can disguise the heft of its message. On the energetic, Giorgio Moroder-sounding "Discotraxx," a breathy Helena Marnie relates romantic doom, singing, "The way they look/ They were made to let each other down." On "Another Breakfast With You," Marnie croons over traditional synth sounds and a quiet cacophony of digital noises: "I didn't feel a thing/ When you told me that/ You didn't feel a thing." These oppositions, though not as politically charged as Stereolab's post-Marxist juxtapositions, give the songs a joyous weight.
Ladytron's experimental pop music is subtle, and full appreciation requires multiple listens. At first you may dismiss 604 as merely another artifact of the '60s-to-'80s synth revival. But the album, with its pessimistic-cum-realistic take on amore and its layering of past electronics, surpasses its "retro futurist" format. Ladytron escapes the kitsch trap by recognizing a future and re-examining a past.