If the Liverpool electropop band Ladytron had to be summed up in one word, it would be reliable. Since their formation in 1999, the British quartet has been made up of the same four members who have consistently delivered good to very good albums comprised of mostly mid-tempo songs delivered in a dreamy synth-pop style. If there’s been any evolution in the twenty-plus years since the band’s inception, it’s in the lyrics. Lead vocalist Helen Marnie’s writing, which in the group’s early years had a tendency toward detailing hip people navigating trendy nightlife scenarios, has evolved over time to employ a more poetic, abstract inclination, bringing with it a broader scope in terms of the singer’s worldview.
Ladytron’s latest studio album, Time’s Arrow, is their seventh and the first of the new decade. The upbeat number “City of Angels” opens the record with playful synths and a refreshing sense of optimism. “All the tricks you know in a flash of light, the love you bring and the cherished things you do,” Marnie repeats during the song’s chorus. The record’s ebullient mood carries through the next track but downshifts slightly during the moving “Misery Remember Me”. Here, the songwriting is top notch, and Marnie’s vocals manage to be effectively dramatic as she adds a sense of tension during the verses before providing a release by sustaining notes beautifully during each soaring chorus.
Time’s Arrow’s second half begins in a similar fashion to its first, offering up “The Night”, an enthusiastic, dancefloor-ready track that recalls Ladytron’s earliest work. It’s a fun moment that imagines what ABBA may have sounded like if they’d formed during the heyday of electroclash. “Sargasso Sea” brings a late sequence changeup, pairing naturalistic sounds of wildlife with a moody chord structure that meanders awkwardly over a pulsing Casio beat. The album’s title track concludes Time’s Arrow and manages to successfully combine the dark and light sonic aesthetics that comprise the album into a satisfying ending.
In terms of song quality and overall enjoyability, when held up against its predecessors, Time’s Arrow falls somewhere above 2011’s Gravity the Seducer but below their self-titled 2019 album. Regardless, Ladytron have proven they still have much to offer in the 2020s, even when their sound and compositional approach remain anchored to the decades previous.