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604
Ladytron
604
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The eighties revival is only just beginning. Before it's over Howard Jones will be knighted, the Thompson Twins will have their own theme park and Ebn-Ozn's 2003 reunion tour will be the top-grossing summer concert tour of the decade. And as much as you like to scoff at the thirty year-olds in their skinny acetate ties and $200 parachute pants, you can feel the eighties revival calling to you. It broadcasts its siren song 24 hours a day on eighties-themed radio stations, beams subtle come-ons via syndicated sitcoms and John Hughes films, and taunts you with reasonably-priced Members Only jackets on E-Bay. But you won't give in. Oh no.

So here's the good news: Ladytron will allow the safe, sensual satisfaction of your new wave cravings, while still permitting you to look all hip and cool and poised on the bleeding edge of musical trendiness. You can even tell your friends that 604 is the logical broadband extension of Kraftwerk's aesthetic; it's like telling people that you watch Star Trek because you're really into astrophysics, but hey, it's your delusion.

Ladytron are a quartet of androgynous, black-clad Eurokids poised behind an array of keyboards, sequencers and drum machines. Their bouncy synthpop tunes spring directly from the most mechanized moments of the new wave era, and you'll fully expect to find Giorgio Moroder's name featured prominently in the disc's credits. If Kurt Cobain had been popular in high school, Ronald Reagan had funneled billions of dollars into improving America's inner cities and the Chemical Brothers had found fulfilling positions in video rental management, all albums might sound like 604.

So what makes 604 more than the sum of its preprogrammed melodies and wan, disaffected vocals? Tracks like the vigorous "Commodore Rock," which recalls New Order circa "Everything's Gone Green", are a great start. The bouncy goodtime futurism of proto-hits like "Playgirl" helps, too -- hear this one two or three times and you'll be singing it in your sleep. And it's hard to resist the insidious catchiness of "Paco!", which none-too-subtly references the theme from Are You Being Served in its shopping-as-fetish manifesto; with the promise that "You don't need to spend, you just have to pretend", the band siphons a decade of social criticism into a single couplet. "This is Our Sound" may bring back memories of odd, angular robot-dancing, and "Ladybird" could easily cause full-on MV3/MTV flashbacks. On the other end of the spectrum, however, you'll find stuff like "Mu-Tron", which mixes an Air-like keyboard melody with a host of sci-fi sound effects, to thoroughly captivating effect.

The most immediately catchy songs on 604 also appear on last year's Commodore Rock EP. If Commodore Rock wasn't poppy enough for you, you'll get no joy from 604; indeed, you're probably better off sifting through your local record shop's bin of Totally Eighties compilations. 604 takes Ladytron's central concept further, developing it beyond its crowd-pleasing Eurodisco foundation to become a sort of bastard child of Cerrone and Kraftwerk, raised by a kindly French uncle with a garage full of analog gear. The music remains light-hearted and danceable, but there are interesting, artsy little undercurrents throughout.

Best of all, because 604 can be enjoyed without buying into the wholesale idiocy of the eighties revival, you won't end up wandering around the house in too-tight parachute pants, humming "Too shy" to yourself. And that's important. Self-respect is a precious thing.

-- George Zahora
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