This last week, I decided I needed to get some new music, so I bought some Tom Waits (Nighthawks at the Diner) and Ladytron (Gravity the Seducer – finally!). But I’m not going to review either of those albums. Ha ha!
Well, I am going to review Ladytron. Specifically Witching Hour, which might have been their most critically acclaimed album, and I just don’t understand why. It’s my least favorite Ladytron album, and it pains me to say that because I really love the rest of their work.
Ladytron was trying something new on this album – which is great! All artists should be constantly trying new things. They should never get comfortable with one sound. In this case, it seems to be the use of electric guitars. And again, it’s great that they wanted to try that! But honestly, for me, it doesn’t work. It makes their songs dead, aloof, and passionless, and normally Ladytron songs are possessed, seductive, and too-cool-for-school. This album, dare I say it, is just boring. Ladytron is not boring! I don’t know what happened.
For the most part, the songs on this album all sound the same to me. And I hate it when people say that about music, because to me that’s just them saying that they’re not listening hard enough. That’s what a lazy listener says. And yet I’ve listened to this album numerous times and thought one song was another then looked and saw I was wrong. I know my music pretty well, but when it comes to Witching Hour I’m left scratching my head. It becomes background noise to me.
There are a few standout songs on this album though. I like “Sugar.” It utilizes the theme of the album but manages to keep it fresh. It’s also the second-shortest track, after the instrumental “CMYK.” That might be why it works so well. Helen Marnie’s voice actually has some decent range, compared to the rest of the album.
I also really like the sinister-sounding “Soft Power.” I feel again that Marnie shows more range – and a hell of a lot more emotion – in this track than in most of the rest of the album. The bass and electric guitar do a wonderful job of accompanying her voice rather than competing with it, as they tend to do elsewhere. When you have vocals in electronic music, it’s a delicate balancing act to make sure one never overpowers the other, and I think it works well in “Soft Power.” In contrast to “Sugar,” this is the longest song on the album. And yet it works!
“Whitelightgenerator” is pretty good. I like that it takes the sound of the album to a higher level. Literally, the pitch is higher in both the vocals and the instruments. Hearing it feels like ascending to heaven. Or maybe the high of a drug. Again, the vocals and instruments work very well together here.
“All the Way…” is easily my favorite track off this album, as well as one of my all-time favorite Ladytron songs. Maybe because it contains the least amount of electric guitar! It has an ethereal and kind of sad sound, tinged with a hint of nostalgia. I swoon when I hear the opening lyric “They heard the sound of the snow falling.” It’s simple yet poetic. The track manages to sound like a snowy winter – something I haven’t experienced in a long time. I feel at peace when I hear it. It’s a fantastic closer.
When it comes to Witching Hour, I personally would not recommend it, at least not for a first-time Ladytron listener. It’s got some interesting sounds, but they are few and far between. It’s a lackluster warm-up to the far superior Velocifero which I’d easily recommend. That is where Ladytron mastered their sound. But that is a review for another day!