Hot on the heels of single ‘Lost Maps’ comes the second solo album from Helen Marnie of the Ladytron parish – and a very fine effort it is too.
The album follows in the footsteps of ‘Lost Maps’ by sounding personal and intimate but is also pretty expansive: the sweeping synth strings on ‘Little Knives’ are almost epic and are certainly intoxicating.
That intoxicating pop-sheen is spread liberally across the album: unapologetic pop, as it should be: there is a dark undercurrent as noted on the single but a pleasing shimmer outs itself.
For fans of Ladytron, there is a recognisable lineage – including the vocals, obviously – but the joie de vivre and lightness of touch present here differentiates from the seemingly still on hiatus band.
That’s not to suggest it’s all bells and whistles and spangly hot pants: tracks like ‘A Girl Walks Home At Night’ are dark and introverted as much as they touch the other end of the emotional spectrum: perhaps reminding of the Pet Shop Boys’ ability to mix the morose with the precise opposite: not a new trick but always a welcome one.
Pop needs records like this: records that can, in record company speak, hit different markets at once: records that sound great coming from crappy car stereos on the school run but also have a rather heftier undercurrent.
Strange Words And Weird Wars certainly fits very nicely into a tradition of British music, from the early electronic outfits of the 1980s until now: this collaborative effort with producer Jonny Scott is, in NME-speak, pop music it’s okay for indie kids to like.
It was, of course, Neil Tennant from the aforementioned PSB who dared to put forward that theory about his own band but, even then, it was already a well-worn path: your mum liked Depeche Mode even whilst there was all sorts of tomfoolery going on behind the sparkly hooks.
We can but hope more live outings are to come – there have only been a couple of gigs so far – Marnie has always been a charismatic performer and these songs beg to be heard on a big system: there are grooves a plenty, as well as the lyrical interest.
One hesitates to say, “more please”, as a return to the fray for Ladytron would be most welcome too: actually, more please – this is far more than a vanity side project whilst the day job takes a break.
Impressive stuff from Helen Marnie: breezy electronic music than can be consumed as just that…or on a number of other levels.
Words: Vosne Malconsorts