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:: Ladytron ::
25 March 2003 / Academy 2 / Manchester
By Tom Kirk

POSSIBLY sensing their Kraftwerkian robo-kitsch could do with a little added irony, Ladytron once bounded on stage to the pounding proto-metal of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. It didn’t work. First singer/keyboardist Mira Aroyo tripped over the monitors. Then the rest of the band fell over her.

So when Ozzy’s Shot In The Dark triggers off tonight’s proceedings, hopes are high for more slapstick accidents. Ladytron, though, have assumed the frigidity of a band transfixed by the regimented synthetics of ‘80’s digital futurism. Likewise, the frosty, expressionless set of their faces and their Soviet cosmonaut suits belie a more total recall of analog-pop than the electroclash movement they predated.

The band themselves seem frozen into place as wavelets of keyboard shrill over True Mathematics’ hard-drive drone, while disordered metropolitan images dart past on a screen behind them. It’s hardly a new trick, but like Kraftwerk or Devo it teases out complementary textures of whirring mainframes, Stalinist concrete, and the automatous urban treadmill. It’s all doubtless pleasant enough for a crowd in the main younger than the dusty keyboards and rhythm boxes Ladytron employ. But like electroclash and the rehashed rock revolution it’s entertainment via nostalgia – not invention.

Which is a pity, as Ladytron are clearly capable of breaking such rigid symmetry. Cracked LCD is tonight atomized by a mushroom cloud of effects, through which its nasty, eerie hum gains frightening relentlessness. He Took Her To A Movie and Seventeen, even better, dirty that up with icy undertones of sexual ambiguity. Rounded off with a similarly fetishist cover of Tweet’s Oops…Oh My, it’s easily more interesting than the linear calculator music that tends to box Ladytron in.

We’ve still yet to hear, then, exactly what pornographic robo-kitsch wreaking thermonuclear devastation across Earth’s cities would sound like. So, for the most part, have Ladytron. But there are hints tonight that perhaps unwittingly, and certainly quite slowly, they’re just starting to work it out.

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