Liverpool synth-pop four-piece unveil an attractive best-of set.
Garry Mulholland 2011
Hearing Ladytron for the first time was a beautiful shock. It was way back in the late 90s; a single, on a tiny label, called He Took Her to a Movie. This was a time when every British band wanted to be a third-rate Oasis and electronic music was consigned to a techno ghetto and was proudly digital. Then, out of the blue, a coldly witty, sexually ambiguous synth-pop record made with ancient analogue machines. The female vocal was detached and Krafterkian, the atmosphere soaked in sci-fi sensuality and a very early 80s, deadpan, art-pop existentialism. The most bizarre twist was that this group didn’t come from Düsseldorf or Sheffield, but Beatles and La’s-obsessed Liverpool. For once, the cliché ‘ahead of their time’ fits absolutely.
But although Ladytron have had to look on as the likes of Lady Gaga and La Roux stole their best moves and went supernova, Mira Aroyo, Daniel Hunt, Reuben Wu and Helen Marnie have done just fine on their own terms, overcoming endless record label problems and becoming a worldwide cult band, playing festivals and DJ sets until pop classicists from unfashionable places finally found their dark and sultry electro nuggets. They’ve worked with Christina Aguilera. They got name-checked on the Lost TV show. And they’ve earned this fabulous Greatest Misses collection in which the only flaw is the baffling omission of He Took Her to a Movie.
At their best – Destroy Everything You Touch, International Dateline, Seventeen, Discotraxx, Playgirl, Blue Jeans – Ladytron fit unforgettable melodies and doleful post-modern rock lyrics in a Bryan Ferry tradition to shimmering revivals of Giorgio Moroder disco and the melodramatically bleak end of 80s synth-pop defined by Visage and late-period ABBA. The two new tracks here – Little Black Angel and Ace of Hz – show an admirable refusal to change tack. In truth, none of their four albums has been consistently great, so this immersive and evocative no-filler collection immediately becomes Ladytron’s best album – at least until their Gravity the Seducer set arrives later this year.
Ladytron music has an effortless glamour and baleful poise, and is occasionally sung in Bulgarian. If you love synth-pop’s romantic attachment to a grand, bleak, European aesthetic, then this is the Best Of for you.