BlackPlastic has been a fan of Ladytron for a while now, and even the name of the site is a (partial) tip of the hat in their direction ('Black Plastic' being a song of the Light & Magic LP). Much has been made of the 'Tron's new "analogue" sound and their new (occasional) use of guitars. In truth, Witching Hour is no more than the natural progression displayed between the asymmetric pop of 604 and Light & Magic's self-knowing-pitch-black-cooler-than-thou skin-deep sheen.
Witching Hour, just as Light & Magic does, hangs together nicely as an album. Things get off to a good start with 'High Rise', synths swirling around live drums. It is easy to imagine that the new Ladytron are a more entertaining live-act. 'High Rise' is followed by latest single 'Destroy Everything You Touch'. 'Destroy...' is perfect Ladytron, cold-as-ice vocals combine with melancholic melodies to create a something far greater than the sum of its (relatively simple) parts. First single, 'Sugar', is perhaps the most obvious beneficiary of added guitars, transforming itself into a rawer creature as a result.
'Fighting in Built-Up Areas' is a definite highlight, sounding like your grandchildren getting rowdy and smashing the streets up in the name of freedom of speech, and it also marks the beginning of this album's departure into experimental territory. 'Last Man Standing' is slightly more melodic than most of the 'tron's catalogue whilst 'Weekend' is a grinding, sexy affair backed with atmospheric guitars that refuse to behave, preferring to be ambient noise rather than anything solid. 'Beauty' is stark and raw to the point where it almost sounds personal (not something Ladytron are accustomed to being) but it is Witching Hour's final two tracks that really shine.
'White Light Generation' sounds like a loved-up The Jesus & Mary Chain have joined turned up, upbeat drums joining quasi-melodic distorted guitars all lifting the same morose vocals up to a higher place. Ethereal is the word. Final track, 'All The Way' is more of the same but it almost sounds like a Christmas song if it wasn't for a deliberately mis-placed key change. It builds and builds like a flower, and it almost wants to shout, "Thank God it's them, instead of you". But it doesn't.
At its core, Witching Hour is still the same brand of emotionless electo-pop music, but that's still a good thing. The addition of organics (not the shampoo) shows they also have a bit of soul, which is no bad thing. If nothing else, check out the final two tracks. Do it.
Get Ladytron's Witching Hour here.