Drowned in Sound
Can you sling your mind back far enough to remember the first few times you ever ventured out into the night? That first bar or gig where the atmosphere surged over you and you realized that whatever you're part of isn't your parent's thing, isn't your school's thing, but instead is somehow your own thing? I hope so, because for me at least, youth in all its boundless, ephemeral glory forms the very essence of pop music for a reason. Indeed, I remember the exact moment that Ladytron blew my tiny little miniature mind when I first heard them as a 17-year-old back in 2003. It was a typical Alex Turner indie-disco vignette, The Strokes, The Hives, snakebite and black, 22-20's, and then out of nowhere "They only want you when you're seventeen / when you're twenty-one / you're no fun". And in that single moment, my entire musical outlook changed irrevocably.
For me, electronic music up to that point meant Dave Pearce's Dance Anthems; "Toca's Miracle" booming out the back of a souped-up Nova, Judge Jools rollin' out fat ones. Ladytron introduced me to a whole new world of artists for whom Kraftwerk = Year Zero. Electronic music that wasn't necessarily dance music, underground pop made with analogue synthesizers. Analogue synthesizers full stop. New Order, Roxy Music, Neu!, Can, Tubeway Army, the pieces soon began to fit together, but Ladytron always stood out. And 12 years after they first formed, they still do.
Other bands get swept up in a wave of hype before swiftly being carried back to obscurity, whereas Ladytron are like indie-objectivists, perpetually honing their craft with each new album regardless of popular context. Other bands chase trends, whereas Ladytron imbue a unique visual and sonic elegance which never really goes in or out of style. They don't get NME covers, they're not a hype band, yet they're not wilfully obscure or particularly underground either. In fact they have no real template except the one they create for themselves. Its an enviable achievement in this digital-age, so [raises champagne flute] three cheers to Ladytron who this week release a career-spanning retrospective Best of 00-10, containing two new songs from their forthcoming album Gravity the Seducer.
Sat in front of me is the single-disc 17 track standard-issue version, but what's more exciting is the double-disc deluxe edition that Reuben mentions in the recent DiS interview. Here there's tour footage / photo booklets / obscure B-sides / other stuff to replicate the days of yore when records were something to actually hold in your hand and to enjoy and unwrap and [snooze].
As for the track selection, well, to think of it as a Best Of is somewhat arbitrary. Really, this is a sampler of songs from four consistently strong albums. Choosing the 17 best Ladytron songs would be a bit like choosing the 17 best Big Macs you've ever eaten, as of 604, Light & Magic and Witching Hour especially are almost completely devoid of filler. Indeed, you could probably choose an entirely different set of tracks (save for "Seventeen" and "Destroy Everything You Touch") and you'd still have an equally plausible best-of.
"Destroy Everything You Touch" is certainly worth dropping by on again if you haven't heard it in a while. Their last.fm stats reveal this to be their most played song by some distance and when it drops as the first track here you can understand why. The intro swoops down with a similar G-Force effect to the THX Deep Note before drums kick in and the entire thing lifts off like a space-shuttle, pinning you to your chair as glacial vocals shimmer and skim across the surface. Played loud enough this song vaporises everything else.
I'm worried I'd develop carpal-tunnel if I started listing other highlights on offer here; the mechanical toy-town bounce of "Playgirl", the tranquilising deep-freeze effect of "Deep Blue". Over the last decade they may have shifted from Computerworld-pop ("Discotraxx") to cosmic shoegaze ("Runaway") but their quality remains at an astonishing level. It'll be interesting to see where they head next, though the evidence here is certainly promising. Newie "Ace of Hz" wraps around you like a warm digital blanket, once again its like they've tapped into some innate resonant frequency to which you can only respond by slinking back into your chair and making a satisfied sort of 'aaahhhhh' sound.
Ultimately, Ladytron demonstrate the sort of timeless, placeless quality which means you never truly feel like you know them. There's always a compelling distance, a certain allure inherent in their music which culminates in genuine mystique. Few other modern British bands have it, but then, few other modern British bands underscore glistening vocals with Bulgarian spoken-word or give all their synthesizers individual names. It's this subtle distinction between fashion and style that has seen Ladytron outlast a decade's worth of fads to come out the other side sounding as fresh as they did back at the tail-end of the nineties. Its truly an achievement, and 00-10 is the perfect way to celebrate.
4/5 (also AMG album pick)
During the 2000s, Ladytron carved out an intriguing niche for themselves in the electro-pop world, forging innocent indie pop melodies with electronics that were by turns nostalgic and menacingly futuristic. This straightforwardly named double-disc set presents nearly every standout moment from the band's albums in a thoughtful mix that lets each album's sound come through while also contributing to the overall flow.
Because Ladytron's approach is so distinctive -- due in part to the complementary styles of vocalists Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo, and in part to the way the band incorporated everything from shoegaze to darkwave to chiptune -- the band's earliest work sounds as fresh as its later music. 604 tracks like "Discotraxx", "Another Breakfast with You", and "The Way That I Found You" spotlight Marnie's tremulous voice and insightful lyrics, while Light & Magic's "Seventeen", "Blue Jeans", and "Evil" reflect Ladytron's darker, sleeker, electroclash-tinged vibe on that album.
Witching Hour's "Whitelightgenerator", "Soft Power", and "Destroy Everything You Touch" -- which may be the group's definitive moment -- capture the collage of goth and dream pop they pursued in the mid-2000s, and Velocifero's industrial-inspired edges are defined by "Ghosts" and "Black Cat".
A few key tracks, like Witching Hour's "Sugar" and 604's "He Took Me to a Movie", are missing, as are some of the band's more playful tracks like Light & Magic's "Re:Agents", but the inclusion of the Death in June cover "Little Black Angel" and the quintessentially sleek new song "Ace of Hz" help compensate.
Overall, this is a generous, beautifully packaged retrospective of one of the 2000s' premier synth pop acts.
One question that won't come up in any music quizzes of the foreseeable future is the bafflingly unanswerable "Why aren't Ladytron one of the biggest bands in the world?" Nevertheless, as bemusing facts go, it really is quite scandalous that one of the most innovative outfits to grace these shores this past decade still never have a top forty hit single amongst their hugely impressive back catalogue.
Formed in 1999 through a shared love of electronic pop and Roxy Music, the four-piece of Helen Marnie, Reuben Wu, Mira Aroyo and Daniel Hunt arrived like a breath of fresh air amidst a squalid stench of acoustic dullards and Yanks in big shorts. In any other era, their pristine, elaborately executed pop would have set the accountants running to the hills counting their sales figures along the way, and yet for some reason Joe Public at large failed to catch on. Maybe by some quirk of fate Ladytron were actually ahead of the game? Certainly the commercial success of peers like Simian Mobile Disco and La Roux suggests there is a market out there for such wares after all, yet none of those who've followed suit can boast to having matched the consistency album-or-album, single-for-single, that Ladytron have achieved so effortlessly throughout their eleven year existence.
While most Best Of compilations tend to be little more than chronological history lessons from start to finish of a band's career, Best of 00-10 veers off the traditional beaten track somewhat. Comprising seventeen tracks in all, two of which are previously unreleased until now, the main facet of such a collection is the staggering level of quality on display throughout the entire record. Even the band's earliest forays into recording, "Playgirl" and "Discotraxx", the only two songs culled from 2001's debut long player 604, still sound as fresh and invigorating as when first released.
In fact, taking in the entire contents of Best of 00-10 it's difficult to pinpoint a weak link. "Destroy Everything You Touch" and "Tomorrow" could both quite easily take first and second place were there an award bestowed on the great-lost pop song of the past decade. Similarly the futuristic "International Dateline", pervasive "Seventeen" and pre-Gaga pomp of "Runaway" all deserve accolades of their own for bringing intelligence and nuance into a genre seemingly lost at the hands of an endless stream of Syco and Ark Music puppets.
Elsewhere, current single "Ace of Hz" and Death in June cover "Little Black Angel" give us a sneak taster of what to expect from forthcoming long player Gravity the Seducer, while debates will no doubt continue long into the ether about the band's decision not to include such immaculate gems as "Sugar", "Evil" and "Paco!" on what is an otherwise flawless compilation.
Still, I guess that's what comes from having such an impeccable back catalogue to fall back on. Ladytron, we salute you. Here's to another ten years of sheer excellence.
At the tail-end of the 1990s, when Britpop was panting its last breath, Ladytron weren't just a breath of fresh air. At a time when electronic music was considered naff and record companies were still scouring the toilet circuit on the look-out for the next Oasis, they sounded completely out of this world.
Their 1999 debut single, "He Took Her to a Movie", was a brave but understated mix of Kraftwerk's eerie, sci-fi electronica and, aptly, Roxy Music's mood and themes. At a time when guitars ruled the airwaves, the robotic vocals of Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo were immediately fascinating, and their first album, 604, didn't disappoint.
Twelve years and four albums later they've collected their best bits together for a retrospective, ahead of the release of their fifth studio album, Gravity the Seducer, later this year.
While it isn't compiled in chronological order, even a first time listener would be able to group the tracks according to the albums they're lifted from. 2001's 604 is sexy, icy and unforgiving; "Discotraxx", "The Way That I Found You" and "Playgirl" are frosty and desolate against the more polished, sultry songs that followed.
2002's Light & Magic contributes some of the band's best known tracks; "Seventeen", "Blue Jeans" and "Cracked LCD", while the fluffier, friendlier side of Ladytron was etched out in 2005's Witching Hour ("Destroy Everything You Touch", "International Dateline", "Beauty*2").
Ladytron have followed a similar route to peers and fellow noughties electro-revivalists Goldfrapp. They've very slowly edged away from the discontented, spooky sounds that earned them a cult following at the start of the last decade, and moved towards a more glossy, grown up sound. Ladytron's last album, 2008's Velocifero was their most radio-friendly to date, and as such its representatives, including "Ghosts", "Runaway" and "Black Cat", play up their trademark breathy vocals and have a more obvious dance vein, but played alongside the sparse, industrial sounds of their earlier work sound disposable and forgettable.
Perhaps their greatest single, the debut that announced their arrival, "He Took Her to a Movie", is missed out thanks to the time frame (it was released a few months too early) imposed by the collection's title, but two new songs are sneaked in. Single "Ace of Hz" continues the sound established by Velocifero, while a reworking of Death in June's "Little Black Angel" sees them submerged back into a darker, cloudier place.
Ladytron have become one of those bands we take for granted; they're solid, steady and reliable. We've come to know what to expect from a Ladytron album, there are few surprises and as a band they keep themselves to themselves. So a collection like this is a timely reminder of what they've achieved; from the cold, hard sounds of 604 to the futuristic disco of Witching Hour, Best of 00-10 is a comprehensive over view of endlessly interesting band.
Early on, Pitchfork contributor Stephen Troussé off-handedly described Ladytron as the second coming of Elastica. It was a good enough comparison for me to remember it a decade later. Like Elastica, Ladytron are a co-ed band built on detachment, androgyny, black clothing, and tons of hooks. Also like Elastica, they were dogged at the start as being vacant fashionistas photocopying the past. A few blinks of the eye later, and Ladytron have been around for a dozen years, and the requisite 17-track Best of 00-10 compilation feels earned. (An expanded version adds 16 more tracks and a huge booklet of photos; depending on your interest in the group, one or the other will certainly qualify as all the Ladytron you'll need.)
Out of the gate, Ladytron dovetailed with and were lumped in with electroclash. They certainly preceded the term, but the group benefited from it and earned quite a bit early attention on the back of it. At the time, they got by on charm, low-rent production, and a few winks. Songs like "Paco!" and "He Took Her to a Movie" feel like defining electroclash documents -- the deadpan vocals, the fairly rudimentary comments on consumerism and sexual politics. Part of the goal, and this was an epidemic in electroclash, was to coat everything in a layer of irony. Trying hard, ambition, giving a shit -- these weren't desired qualities. Cheapness, disposability, peacocking -- these were in style. By that measurement, Ladytron succeeded -- only two tracks from their debut LP, 604, are featured here: "Discotraxx" and "Playgirl", a couple of gossipy girltalk songs, observational character sketches that draw different conclusions about young women growing up quickly. (Compilers: "Commodore Rock" was jobbed.)
It came as a surprise when Ladytron went right out and grew up. Stepping up their tempos, sharpening their rhythms and low-ends, and acquiring a sheen of professionalism, they took a step toward longevity on their next record, Light & Magic (2002). The results weren't as strong as 604, but they carved a way out of what looked like a trendy dead-end. Darkening the tone of their songs and providing more muscle to their sound, Ladytron graduated from a concept into a band. And yet from the record only "Seventeen" -- a lament that could have been penned for the girls who grew up too fast on 604 -- is truly first-tier.
The band itself may have gotten that message: evolve or risk being left out. They evolved: the leap on their next album, Witching Hour, was stark. Bottle service and velvet ropes are entirely absent; a confident, poised blend of goth, shoegaze, and rock instead characterizes the album -- by far their career peak. It's no surprise that five of the 17 tracks here, including arguably its three best ("Destroy Everything You Touch", "Soft Power", "International Dateline"), are from that album.
Ladytron continued their morphing into theater-rock on 2008's Velocifero; the three singles included here -- "Ghosts", "Tomorrow", and "Runaway" -- find them perilously close to Killers territory, but they're talked down from the ledge by Helen Marnie's vocals. With a more demonstrative or earnest singer in tow, the band may have been tempted to graft itself to songs that aim for scope over subtlety. A sense of humor and keying in on specific images or lyrical ideas have always suited Ladytron, so a drift toward more big-tent songs would be unlikely to yield anything other than vague plaudits.
It wouldn't be a 21st century compilation without a few add-ons. There's a new song, "Ace of Hz", and a cover of Death in June's "Little Black Angel". Both are decent songs that won't raise eyebrows tacked onto the back end of a band's best work, but would never be considered career highlights on their own. Some of the playfulness of their early days is missed on Best of 00-10, the loose analog charm of their earliest songs would have given the collection a little more lift. (How odd would it have sounded a decade ago to say a Ladytron comp would suffer from being too leaden?) But these 17 songs collectively are a hell of a strong argument for why you're still reading about Ladytron now instead of, say, Miss Kittin or Fischerspooner or Peaches.
A collection of effortlessly cool electronic pop
"Keyboards and synthesizers often suggest coolness and detachment", Ladytron's Helen Marnie once told me, when asked about the perception of the band as icy and unapproachable, "but they can be just the opposite – you can make them sound warm and lovely". The band's music has become darker and noisier over the years, from the stark, simple new wave pop of their debut to the dirty, fuzzed-out sound of Witching Hour and beyond, but the tension between the chilliness of the arrangements and the warmth and beauty of the melodies remains an essential element of Ladytron's sound.
This compilation opens with "Destroy Everything You Touch", whose big, buzzing bassline still lays waste to everything in its path five years on. From there, it cherry-picks various highlights from Ladytron's career, whether glamorous and sinister – "Seventeen", "Ghosts" – or hazy and beautiful – "The Last One Standing", "Playgirl". Essentially, this compilation is a reminder of Ladytron's outstanding skill at creating leftfield electronic pop songs – calling it a best-of almost seems beside the point, as there is so much great material on their four albums that you could cherry-pick an entirely different set of tracks and come up with something just as good.
For a variety of reasons – among them an almost comical succession of bad luck and the continuing tastelessness of the general public – Ladytron's rightful status as one of the greatest British bands of the past decade has remained largely unrecognised.
The internationalist (Scouse-Chinese-Scottish-Bulgarian-Israeli) electro-rock quartet may not have presented a comprehensive summary of their career here, but it's a superb starting point for Ladytron latecomers, containing classics such as early statement of intent "Playgirl" and closest-thing-to-a-pop-hit "Seventeen". There are also two new tracks: a pulsating cover and the self-penned "Ace of Hz", whose effortless elegance matches Ladytron's finest. Which, when you hear the rest of this sublime compilation, you'll realise is about as high as praise can get.
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 Kraftwerkian, 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.
Loved by everyone from Christina Aguilera to Brian Eno, Ladytron have spent a decade releasing icy electronica intercut with chic new wave charms. Featuring more vintage synths than Giorgio Moroder's attic, the Liverpool-based act's back catalogue is neatly summarised via this retrospective.
From the early radio success "Seventeen" through to new tracks recorded with former Nine Inch Nails keyboard fetishist Alessandro Cortini, Best of 00-10's cohesion suggests the much-copied Ladytron blueprint has changed little over the course of four studio albums, but "Destroy Everything You Touch" and "Runaway" remain the perfect blend of seductive femme fatale vocals and pulsing digital beats. A bonus disc of their remixes for Goldfrapp, Nine Inch Nails and Placebo would have been a nice addition, but fans don't have long to wait until fifth album Gravity the Seducer drops in late 2011.
This Is Fake DIY
To put on a Ladytron album is to be transported to a creepingly sinister futuristic world where everything is chrome, streamlined and ergonomically sculpted, running smoothly to their metronomically precise soundtrack. Ladytron have long been creators of a shiny brand of electronica belonging in a parallel world of sparkling precision, with never a beat out of place nor a synth stab wasted. It's refined electro pop at its peak and it's nothing but a pure joy to have the best of their consistently sharp work from the past decade collected together in this one dazzlingly bright, gorgeously crafted collection.
Opening pair "Destroy Everything You Touch" and "International Dateline" swish along in all their electro finery, displaying instant danceability combined with brittle beauty. In fact, a huge part of Ladytron's appeal is encapsulated in this very ability; although they are quite obviously achingly cool, they can't stop themselves from creating warm, hugely danceable tracks. Highlight of an album of consistent standout tracks is "Discotraxx" (from their stunning 2001 debut album 604) with its delirious clash of frantic synth undercurrents and ice cold Eastern European vocals. It's at once powerful and vulnerable, like all the best musical ideas, firing off in all directions and never satisfied by settling in one place for too long.
Just to remind you that they are far from an electro flash in the pan, the band shake things up with "Tomorrow", a deliciously majestic track from their most recent album, 2008's Velocifero, as equally hypnotic as any of their earlier tracks. From the same, most recent album "Ghosts" is also included here, prowling around with a swaggering rhythm and rock-tinged guitar riff. Even the less obvious feelgood tracks such as the menacing "Fighting in Built Up Areas" have a compelling, eerie melancholy. It might not be the most accessible track, but it will surely stick in your mind like the remnants of a darkly dangerous nightmare. Their eclectic back catalogue is a testament to their refusal to be pigeoholed which is doubtlessly why they've been able to stick around for so long.
They've even managed to sneak in a brand new track "Ace o Hz" right at the end, a sneak preview of what we can expect from their forthcoming fifth studio album. It hints at a shift away from the grittier, industrial sounds of last album Velocifero, instead allowing a more delicate, shimmering melody to emerge. It's another twist in direction for Ladytron, and yet another way to let them weave their magic around you.
Entering Ladytron's world is to immerse yourself into an ice cold universe with a strange flaming heart right at its centre. You'd swear it's a physical impossibility but yet it's revealed to you in all its surreal wonder before your very eyes. Before you have time to realise what's happening, they've already worked their curious spell on you and you're utterly bewitched all over again.
There is really not much bad to say about Ladytron's new 2-disc collection. Born during the late '90s electroclash craze, the quartet quickly evolved and moved on to a more polished, atmospheric, electro-rock sound layered with synths, grooving dance beats, and dark melodic lullabies. In the past 10 years, they have released four strong albums including, 604 (2001), Light & Magic (2002), Witching Hour (2005) and most recently, Velocifero (2008). The latter two albums are their strongest to date with Witching Hour, so far, being the band's masterpiece.
All of the fan favorites are here, including the powerful "Destroy Everything You Touch", a slightly different version of "Blue Jeans", the chilling and commanding "High Rise", and the always delicious "Evil". Diehards who own every single Ladytron album will be glad to know that there is a reason to be lured in and by this new Best Of. The collection contains two new (and very well done) tracks "Little Black Angel" and "Ace of Hz".
One could get nitpicky and take notice to some of the head-scratching omissions nowhere to be found on the album. Great tracks like "Fire", "Burning Up", "I'm Not Scared", and "Sugar" didn't make the cut. We assume 160 minutes just isn't enough time for an entire Ladytron Best Of, especially since they're one of those bands who put out albums where almost every track is so darn good. With a fifth new studio album, titled Gravity the Seducer, coming later this summer (that is sure to contain more Ladytron magic), we wonder why the band didn't just hold off on this collection and save it for the Holiday season - and hey, why not just make it a 3-disc set?
DOWNLOAD: "Destroy Everything You Touch", "Discotraxx", "Playgirl", "Blue Jeans", "Deep Blue", "Little Black Angel", "Ace of Hz".
The Owl Mag
What intrigues me about electronica are the limitless boundaries of the musicians. Guitar, drum, an entire symphony orchestra, all can be commanded from a keyboard (alright, maybe a little more than that). Hailing from the UK, electro-quartet Ladytron is a major player in developing this sound. Celebrating their 10-year anniversary, a best-of collection has been put together, and if you're in the mood for a journey, give it a spin.
Ladytron sets you in a different world. The progression of tracks is like walking through a 33-room hallway of your imagination. Each room is different and unique while carrying a theme that unifies the entire experience. Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo, the tantalizing if not occasionally eerie siren guides, give this journey a flavor unique to Ladytron. Driving drum hits are present, as are traditional synth progressions arranged into melodies that dig and bury themselves deep within your subconscious. You'll find yourself humming random progressions days after your last listen.
You can't mistake Ladytron, and it pains me to admit that their best-of was my first real listen. If the last 10 years are any indication, Ladytron has some serious staying power. If you've never heard of them, or you've been a fan since the get-go, the freshly minted best-of is a worthy addition to your library.
Da Vinci was famed for many things. Technological ingenuity. Pioneering anatomical designs. 'Quite good' paintings. Side-splitting mother-in-law jokes. One lesser known fact is that Leo also drafted preliminary sketches outlining the four-stage lifecycle of the classic synth band. Today, we will attempt to put these ideas to the test. Don't worry, I have a lab coat, goggles, and a 'Verified Scientist' certificate printed from the interwebs. Experiment #1. A prime legacy of synth pop born and bred in the 21st century: the Liverpool-via-Glasgow-via-Bulgaria-via-Metropolis quartet known as Ladytron. Fire up the Whoopee Machine and let the experiment commence...
All synth pop begins with what is termed 'the Bontempi Years', named after the bargain bin keyboards discovered in the bowels of every dusty, street corner thrift store. Our penniless visionaries 'n' hunger artists plug-in said machines and gingerly begin pressing buttons and twisting knobs, praying for that divine flash of synth pop alchemy, all whilst cultivating asymmetrical haircuts.
Having been switched on during the Great Electroclash War at the fall of the last century, 'Les Enfants Ladytron' reflects much of the bedroom art happenings of Client, Fischerspooner and Broadcast. Council estate tales of northern nightclubs, neon loneliness, and nicotine played out over throbbing Cerrone and Moroder valentines. "Discotraxx", on which Bulgarian-born Mira Aroyo growls like the sexy niece of Bond villain Rosa Klebb, and the Pulp-like storytelling of "Playgirl" are wonderfully charming, vulnerable naiveté. "Sleep your way out of your hometown", offers lead Lady Helen Marnie slyly on the latter.
The smart and sassy shoulda-been-massive "Seventeen", with its payoff "They only want you when you're 17 / When you're 21 you're no fun", shows a band conjuring more mercurial magic than mere light and trickery. Darkening skies of urban decay, alienation, and grubby sleaze foresee their later tread into more sophisticated Cronenberg-style terrain, whilst the tough rattle of "Blue Jeans" captures a band sharpening its pop claws. There are guffaws to be had, though, at the anaemic "Cracked LCD" with its zombified 'Sat Nav' vocal guiding us to an "Alpine retreat off the A40".
Clearly, by 2005's Witching Hour, Ladytron had graduated from 'The School Disco' and evolved into that most desired stage of the synth pop lifecycle, 'The Imperial Years', aka the Land of the Immortals. All dream of reaching this electro Utopia, but few live to see its glorious reward. Armed with confidence and a shitload of dough wrestled from the greasy hands of record company big wigs, the world as you know it briefly stops spinning and starts dancing to your TR-808. You can do no wrong and everybody wants to be your mistress. You have perfected the balance between "Pop" and "Art" and gleefully flip your loser peers the middle finger.
Undeniably, "Destroy Everything You Touch" scales this Olympus of synth genius. A four-minute warning sending out a clear message to get your bony asses out, there's a new Sheriff in town. MARVEL at the design! GASP at the 'can-do' attitude! SWOON at the newly acquired barnets and clobber! HOLD ON to your teacup as its megawatt drums shake the dancefloor and send ripples through the Poposphere. It's the song which will be encrypted into their stainless steel tombstones. Luckily, it's not alone. "International Dateline" is Kraftwerk remodelling The Specials' "Ghost Town", their Ballardian apocalyptic manifesto now perfected. "Let's end it here!" declares Marnie, fist aloft. "Soft Power" meanwhile recalls Hansa-era Bowie ("Broken glass is luxury / Daylight is the enemy"). It's simultaneously mournful, euphoric, glamorous, and ridiculous, like only the finest synth pop. A victory march through the ruins of fallen empires... whilst wearing silver PVC cat suits and oversized sunglasses obviously.
Spurred on by their burgeoning success, Ladytron re-emerged a more professional, tougher, well-tailored gang with 2008's Velocifero. The polished, gliding "Tomorrow". The glam-stomp of the hypnotic, Dr Who theme-inspired "Ghosts". The punchy, tribal "Runaway". The absolute treasure, though, was the sleek dark disco panther called "Deep Blue". Foolishly ignored for single release, it still prowls majestically and shows why 'Those Who Know' (Reznor! Depeche! Goldfrapp! Aguilera?) were starting to ask questions about these "Ladybird fellas".
But alas, all good things must end, and this is typically where synth pop enters Stage Three: 'The Grizzly Adams Wilderness Years'. Many never survive this stage. They foolishly decree synth pop as 'facile', 'fake' and demand to be taken 'seriously' (whatever that means). A band will chuck their beloved synths into a neighbour's skip and 'manfully' stride toward the enemy. Rock Horribilis. I'm talking guitars and (shivers) real drums (spits). Things often deteriorate so rapidly that 'The Artist' will soon decide to enhance their new look with a beard. Luckily, ladies, by their very design, struggle with this part.
Let's hope a year spent in Aguilera's dungeon counts as Ladytron's 'Wilderness Years' and they leap straight to Stage Four, the '(Born Disco, Die Disco!) Neon Lights Retirement Home for Synth Pop Royalty'. Having sold zip records after betraying the Kidz with Stage 3, you reclaim your electro birthright and, although you may struggle to reach the dizzy heights of 'The Imperial Years', the world cheers and welcomes you back to medium-sized venues. Some fall so far by this stage that "Fifth on the bill below Howard Jones" is seen as 'The Comeback'. But Ladytron may have dispelled Da Vinci's theories. The two newies here—a pulsating, disco-friendly cover called "Little Black Angel", with its assuredly striking command, "I want you to burn down freedom's road!", and the elegant 'n' ethereal recent single "Ace of Hz"—suggest Ladytron may yet still occupy their Imperial phase. Pah! What did the Renaissance know about Korgs anyway?
00-10 isn't quite flawless. The non-sequential tracklisting results in a few 'ouch!' moments (Super eek! at the clumsy airkissin' handshake between "Cracked LCD" and "Deep Blue"). Plus you'll have to shell out for the swanky double-disc edition if you want the real best of Ladytron ("Beauty*2", swoons). As an example of 'The Great Pop Synth Band', though, it unearths many fine museum-worthy pieces and captures a band in both their 'Bontempi' and 'Imperial' phases. As for the future, album five is apparently poised and ready to launch. If the artwork sees Aroyo and Marnie holding flying V's and sporting ZZ Top face fur though, run for cover and damn you, Da Vinci.