I've been following LADYTRON since I saw the video for "Playgirl" in early 2001. Upon buying 604, I knew that the band was destined for big things with the synth-based '80s sounds that at once mimicked and simultaneously outshined anything ever done by the likes of Depeche Mode, the Human League or Visage. As a collection of early tracks, 604 sparked a musical movement of '80s-inspired electro-rock that we are still experiencing a la The Killers, Interpol, The Bravery and others. By Fall 2002, we were treated to Light & Magic, a more polished collection of LADYTRON songs that not only avoided the 'sophomore slump' but managed to impress critics worldwide, ending up on Rolling Stone's Top 50 albums of the year. And, honestly, who could resist the cross-over synthetic appeal of tracks like club hit "Seventeen," the '60s pop inspired "Blue Jeans," electro-dance favorite "Evil," and the lush title track?
Fast forward to Witching Hour (2005). After switching labels in 2004, the band set out to make a record that incorporated a broader range of influences. If the first two records took cues from Kraftwerk, then Witching Hour takes its leads from the likes of The Kinks and My Bloody Valentine ("Sugar"), New Order ("Destroy Everything You Touch"), Lush ("WhiteLightGenerator"), and the Cocteau Twins ("All The Way"). Don't get me wrong: This album is NOT about LADYTRON trying to do its best to rip off anyone else. They take these influences and make them distinctly their own; each track is quintessential LADYTRON. It's a well produced concept album that takes you on a dark journey from start to finish. Witching Hour is successful in that it displays the breadth of the band's talents, now incorporating guitars and a rougher, edgier sound (think feedback and fuzzy electronic overlays). At times, the band can even be political ("Soft Power") without hitting you over the head and can craft the most ominous of dance tracks ("Fighting In Built Up Areas"), sure to be a goth favorite.
What works most about the album is that it appears that LADYTRON have finally produced a record that speaks to a wide range of the band members' personal musical influences. Produced by Jim Abbiss (Kasabian, Placebo), Witching Hour will appeal to a broader audience than just the electroclash set. Granted, there are tracks that are planted firmly in that camp ("Weekend") but other songs stretch the band to its creative limits, offering us a chance to hear what a proper LADYTRON ballad sounds like ("Beauty*2"). What's refreshing is that all of these seemingly different tracks sound great from start to finish - mostly due to the strong vocals offered by Helen Marnie. She is at her most mature and confident on Witching Hour. And while Mira Aroyo only takes the lead on a couple of tracks ("AMTV" and "Fighting In Built Up Areas"), her performance is solid as well. By the way, Mira also offers up the lead vocals on one of the best LADYTRON Bsides to date, the flipside of "Destroy Everything You Touch" called "Nothing To Hide." Check it out.
And, for those people who've been asking about why Track 14 is nothing but dead airtime, well just look at the running time of the album, 60:02. That's almost exactly one hour - a witching hour, if you will. While you make think that's silly or misleading, it's the kind of attention to detail that makes Witching Hour one of the strongest indie-electro-rock records of the decade. Everyone should own this album, in my opinion. And, so far, everyone that I've suggested it to has loved it immensely. Perhaps you will too. LADYTRON at their best!!!