Ladytron - Velocifero

Matt Haigh 17/06/2008

Rating: 4/5

It's time to don your best Bladerunner outfit and twist any trace of a smile into a thin-lipped veneer, as Ladytron are back and ready to show all the other pretenders to the Electronica throne exactly how it's done. The minimalist bleeps and squelches of their first two albums are long gone: Velocifero takes the ideas that glimmered through their previous album Witching Hour and nurtures them into a fully-realised sound that is all their own.

The psychedelic style artwork - with the band members caught up in a wave of swirls, spirals and carbuncle-eyed creatures - is echoed in the sound of first single Ghosts, a thumping track replete with retro 60s-sounding organ and tentative vocals about an apologetic spirit … maybe. It's always quite difficult to tell what Ladytron are singing about, as their lyrics are often a mix of the head-scratchingly abstract and familiarly mundane. The way in which Helen sings "There's a ghost in me that wants to say I'm sorry - doesn't mean I'm sorry," epitomises what's so great about this band. A lot of people believe the only way to convey feeling is to wail your lungs out as if your heart is breaking right there in front of the microphone. Instead, Ladytron front-women Helen and Mira deliver their lyrics with a cool indifference suggesting restraint over fierce emotion and the difficulty of heart-felt expression.

I'm Not Scared leaps out of the speakers with a thundering baseline, awash with sinister synths, almost nightmarish in its brooding tone. There are echoes of the Pet Shop Boys on Runaway, while Season of Illusions sees the band lamenting the loss of Top of the Pops. To pick out highlights proves rather difficult, as this is an incredibly consistent album; unlike their previous efforts, there is no filler, and the knob-twiddling experiments of old that often meandered towards an anti-climax have vanished altogether. Velocifero is a head-rushing experience as much as an album, a neon-soaked underworld dripping with futuristic atmosphere.

Velocifero really comes into its own at the end, however. The final three songs make for a powerful trilogy that manages to capture the very essence of the band, and hint at a new direction yet to come. Deep Blue is the sound of the future. A song to blast from the speakers of your light cruiser as you're speeding down the highway through some high-tech futuristic city. Tomorrow is light and breathy, striking that delicate balance between ice-queen and teary-eyed emotion that has become so central to their aesthetic. Album closer Versus is a euphoric, epic tale of reflection, regrets and redemption encompassing an almost Bell and Sebastian-esque sound while never losing its idiosyncrasy. It feels like a revitalizing, sweet release after the heavier and more darker moments that have proceeded it, the audio equivalent of turning your face up to the heavens during a rainstorm. Moreover, it feels like a bold step in a slightly new direction, a leap forward into the unknown, and you just know they'll soon be flocking back to their studio like bats to a cave to record album number five.

In the current worlds of both Indie and Electronica, there's an awful lot of music that sounds nearly identical to its counterpart, a great deluge of four-piece bands with their guitars, fashionable haircuts and skinny jeans that just sound completely uninspired. Amid this sea of banality, Ladytron gleam with wry perceptions, an original sound, and plenty of heart. In my book, they're already a national treasure.