Friday, August 1, 2008

Don't Forget About... Witching Hour

The next entry in my series spotlighting under-appreciated albums.

The club scene is one I’ll never know. It’s dark, glamorous, and devoid of emotion. The occupants of the best ones, it seems, dance not because they want to, but because they have to. Icy stares suggest having a night out is some kind of duty. No, this is not something for me. It is, however something with mysterious appeal…

Enter Ladytron, a British band whose reputation from the get-go was shrouded by their involvement (and arguably pilfered sound) of the club scene. It seemed the critics and public alike didn’t take it as seriously as the group and their compatriots. The band’s music was for clubbers, made by clubbers, and there was little appeal outside those boundaries. At least until 2005 when they released Witching Hour.

Like any other great album, Witching Hour works on various levels… It works as an ode to the aforementioned club scene, with every song pulsing with an aggressive fury urging listeners to dance. Lyrically, this is a love letter to nightlife: with subject matter rarely venturing past lullabies of endless weekends, Ladytron is sticking to what they know best.

Witching Hour also works as a breakthrough album, fusing their already-established electronic sound with the re-emerging shoegaze flavor. The newfound echo and ambience of their keyboards and guitars makes Ladytron sound like they are hosting a dance party in a haunted house. Of course, the creepy Bulgarian lyrics of “Fighting In Built Up Areas” make this an apt comparison. Track after monster track pummels the listener until their head spins, and the record’s hazy sound makes you just feel like you’re in a club. This isn’t just Ladytron’s best album, it’s one of the best dance albums ever.

Another trait of great records is the closing song, and Witching Hour follows suit with “All The Way”. Like the rest of the album, the lyrics are sung with little emotion. The music, however, tells the real story here. The song’s tension and release puts the listener into a reflective state, as if something worth remembering just happened. It’s the sound of Ladytron going home after the party, looking forward to the next.

Though Witching Hour is unquestionably Ladytron’s high point, 2008 follow-up, Velocifero, is nearly as good. This is encouraging news, as very few bands can affect a listener like Ladytron. Their sound is that of pure escapism, the essence of club life. They don’t bring the listener to their element, they bring their element to the listener: that is the mark of a worthwhile group, and a trait few bands possess. Bravo!

Ladytron - Witching Hour

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