Creating a politically driven album can be a precarious task, especially today. When done right, the results can be meaningful and enduring, otherwise the theoretical piece of art shall fail to reach any specific audience. It will then lose itself in the abyss of records that couldn’t quite find its niche.
After a seven-year hiatus, Ladytron (the quartet of Helen Marnie, Mira Aroyo, Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu) tackles our problematic world with great chaos on their self-titled sixth studio album. The cover art suggests that the apocalypse is near with imagery reminiscent of the California wildfires that have taken so many homes and lives. It’s a direct reflection of our upturned world.
The Liverpool quartet show an innate understanding of the different dilemmas each of us face, no matter how exaggerated they may be. The group uses their synth-pop roots to illustrate a metaphorical path of destruction that the human race has gone down recently. They start off the album with a bang on the intro track “Until the Fire” — an anarchic portrayal of recent political corruption in the United States.
The pessimistic view of society becomes an ongoing theme, and although the aesthetic of the music is ’80s synth-pop, the songwriting is similar to a post-punk act. In “Tower of Glass,” Marnie and Aroyo perfectly synchronize over marching synthesizers (“Reverse shadow, dim lantern/I’m your favorite apparition/Which makes your ears and fingers burn/I am your amnesiac kingdom”) and then interpolate different vocal harmonies on the more upbeat “Paper Highways” (“Weightless you were dreaming/When you wake don’t forget/This world keeps turning/If the sun sets to the west”).
Much of the ominous production could theoretically feature in a classic sci-fi horror thriller (or even in something recent like The Neon Demon), as long as devastation is involved. The synth lines naturally aren’t happy — rather, each chord progression represents an emotion similar to encountering one’s demise. The band isn’t necessarily warning the public about impending danger. They’re telling us that the danger is already here.
“The Island” is a great example of the trouble we find ourselves in at the moment (“Falling fast, falling harder/Falling fast and harder, the chains that bind us”). The lyrics, while a bit campy, remind how far we’ve fallen as a society, namely due to the questionable ways we treat one another. The sentiment is brought up constantly in today’s music industry, but not to the horrific degree presented on this record.
Where Ladytron falters is when it wants to have its cake and eat it too. A few songs here overstay their welcome. As much as I love the dark and dingy “Until the Fire,” the six-minute epic becomes tiresome by its final inclusion of the chorus. The savagery on “The Animals” is refreshingly problematic, but lacks a compelling finale. In the end, it’s still one of the most memorable tracks.
Ladytron finishes about as positive as they can in a world as demented as presented here in “Tomorrow is Another Day.” The tone in the instrumentals stay the same, thus keeping the prophetic theme relevant throughout. In the end, Ladytron’s self-titled album brings a nostalgic aesthetic that fits these tough times. Instead of predicting, the band is acknowledging the present.
And that is clearly an important thing nowadays.