LIGHT & MAGIC
ALBUM EMPEROR NORTON, TELSTAR, WARNER
RELEASE: SEPTEMBER 17, 2002 (USA), DECEMBER 2, 2002 (UK), DECEMBER
9, 2002 (SWEDEN) REVIEW: DECEMBER 30, 2002
There is this instantly recognizable, indefinable element of Britishness,
the Britain of fish'n'chips, soccer and unhealthy looking fashion models
present on "Light & Magic". No matter how much Ladytron
look to Germany or how many songs Bulgarian Mira Aroyo sings in exotic
languages, still they remain firmly planted in English soil. I think it
has to do with a peculiar British esthetic of cool detachment and the
concept of style over everything, not just substance. You can heap abuse
upon the British, but you cannot take style away from them. American style,
in contrast, is platinum watches and gravity defying dreadlocks, shockingly
distasteful to the impeccable, Oscar Wildean dandies of English subculture.
Ladytron carry this British inheritance, like everyone from Pet Shop Boys
to Dubstar before them, and it permeates their essence, radiating from
record covers, videos and of course from the music in itself.
Since the previous album "604", the focus has shifted slightly
from sheer pop to something colder and less organic. The whole mood is
about dressing up, fabrication and illusion - strengthened by the modeling-themed
lyrics of single track "Seventeen" ("They only want you
when you're 17, when you're 21 you're no fun"). The name of the album
seems like a reference to this "unreality", and seldom, if ever,
can the real voices of singers Aroyo and Marnie be heard unprocessed.
The surface perfection and smoothness of the sound can be a little numbing
in the long run. "Light & Magic" is like a pretty face with
heavy make up. The songs have good melodic hooks and create nice moods,
but sometimes the artificial sheen of the material makes it sound too
much like a Paris catwalk soundtrack.