Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Ladytron 

604 (Emperor Norton)

Wednesday, Mar 14 2001
Comments
The English band Ladytron calls itself "retro futurist," an oxymoron meant to indicate backward-looking forward thought. It may sound confusing but it works. From the opening instrumental track "Mu-Tron" to the final, droning-yet-melodic number "Skools Out...," the group evokes real nostalgia for vintage synthesizers without the camp or irony often attached to such projects.

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.

About The Author

Jill Stauffer

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Slideshows

  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"