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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ladytron Concert Review


Ladytron, 9:30 Club, 9/25/06

Club-kid cool descended on Washington this Tuesday at the Ladytron show at the 9:30 Club, attended by Rock Club members Dan, Jason, and James.

I will review the show, but first I would like to talk about the genre of techno, more recently dubbed “electronica” (in my younger years, the Ladytron sound at times would have been called “industrial” as well, but I’ve got better things to do than try to keep up with all these silly-assed labels—I still don’t know exactly what “emo” is). Whatever you call it--and I’m calling it techno, so don’t give me any lip about it—the terms tend to be applied to those bands (or DJs) that rely on a bass-heavy, beat-driven sound, with keyboards and Commodore 64 computers and such. In a nutshell, anyway.

Admittedly, it’s easy to make fun of techno. First, there’s a close association with Germany, and all that entails. The black clothing, the severe haircuts, the Sprockets imagery—all easy targets, large enough for the dullest dullard to hit. Even more Germanic, and thus more disturbing, is the fascist undertones of much of the music, the victory of image over substance, and the fascination with death. Joy Division—whose DNA course through the genre--took their name from the groups of women used as sex slaves in Nazi concentration camps. Challenging tastes and sensitivities, perhaps? Well, maybe. But the post-Ian Curtis remainder of the group also chose a name with Nazi inferences—New Order. The use of umlauts, the Waffen-SS haircuts, all those club chicks that look like Ayn Rand—it’s a bit much, don’t you think?

Another crime laid on techno’s doorstep is the heavy reliance on samples, loops, beeps, and other R2D2 type shit. Are all these beeps and whistles meant to be music? How can a band that doesn’t play its on instruments, or write music, properly be considered a band? And why are they handing out Star of David armbands to all the Jews in the audience? Why, God, why? Actually, the armband thing most likely hasn’t happened, yet.

But I have not come to bury techno, but to praise it. The godfathers of it all, Kraftwerk, formed in 1970. Now I ask you, consider the music of the 1970s. Wouldn’t a little robot music be refreshing after listening to a 20-minute tantric masturbation session of King Crimson singing something like “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 1”, or enduring a never-ending procession of quasi-Robert Plants and ersatz-Mick Jaggers in tight pants? Wouldn’t you just, for a moment at least, wish that Roger Waters would just shut the fuck up about his mother, and perhaps consider taking a shower and buying some nicer clothes? Wasn’t it time for a little minimalism? Kraftwerk—not to mention people like David Bowie and Brian Eno—certainly thought so, and thus started adding those beeps and bwoops to their songs, and the ball was kicked into play.

Now, 36 years later, we have a long list of techno/electronic bands that were/are pretty good and span all styles of music, from the rock-influenced Chemical Brothers, LCD Soundsystem, and Daft Punk, all the way to the gay aerobics sound of bands like Depeche Mode, OMD, Erasure, and Bronski Beat, and everything in between. It’s no longer taboo for bands such as Radiohead and others to incorporate synthesizers and turntables into their music. So get over it, already.

(This presents a good opportunity to insert a joke—I always thought that “OMD Found in Iraq” would make a great headline for The Onion. There could be a photoshopped pic of American soldiers pulling the bedraggled and bearded synth-kings out of a spider hole.)

Even the Nazi thing can be finessed, kind of. It’s no secret that Nazis fascinate people. We keep making movies about them, so much so that I think there should be a new Oscar category for Best Portrayal of a Nazi. It all comes down to the pageantry and uniforms. Preposterous? Not so. Josef Stalin and Mao killed nearly twice as many people as Hitler, yet no one’s making movies about them. Why? Bad, brown, lumpy uniforms, poor haircuts, lack of style. So techno kids dressing up in their stylish, severe outfits? Ach, it’s not so bad. Trying to look like an ubermensch, it’s no crime. I look at all the fucking fat slobs out on the street today, and I can dig it. Just don’t start looking at me like I’m Poland, and we’ll be fine.

Okay, the show. Ladytron, true to form, came out looking like the children of Peter Murphy. I was going to say the love children of Peter Murphy and Siouxsie Sue, but I’m pretty sure Peter Murphy would not need to impregnate a woman in order to have kids. Rather, his children would descend from his groin area in a pod, fully grown and wearing black spacesuits. Only Bulgarian keyboardist and “vocalist” Mira Aroyo was wearing a black spacesuit, but the rest of the band was wearing clothes best described as what would be worn in the Death Star, on casual Friday.

By the way, on the way over to the show, we decided that Erin looks like Grand Moff Tarkin, from Star Wars. For the non-geeks out there, Grand Moff Tarkin was Darth Vader’s Assistant VP for Evil on the Death Star. Like Erin, he had a very small head.

Okay, stop distracting me, I’m trying to review the Ladytron show. First, the cons. One of the best attributes of the 9:30 Club is the top-notch sound system they have, but Ladytron’s output was so loud that there seemed to be quite a bit of distortion and overmodulation, which caused me no small amount of botheration. Then again, I was standing
right next to the speakers. Second, and I mentioned this earlier, Mira Aroyo has a terrible voice and should not be allowed to sing lead. Backup, yeah, but nothing else. But my biggest beef with Ladytron was that, for large portions of the show, I felt like I was hearing the same song, over and over. Not only the same song, but the same gloomy, dark, rainy skies over Northern Europe song. Enough, okay?

On the plus side, when Ladytron broke out of that rut, they sounded great. Backed by one of those “arty” slide shows, the band looked fantastic. Death Star corporate casual? Yeah, but if I had more money and sense, I would buy some new threads too. And I would look so good as I cut you slobs out of my life for good. Sure, it’d be hard at first, but soon I would forget you as I hung out with the cool kids in NYC and snorted coke and did X every night.

Some highlights from the show included “International Date Line”, “He Took Her To A Movie”, “Send Me A Postcard”, “The Last One Standing”, and “Destroy Everything You Touch.” “Seventeen” and “Sugar”, unfortunately, didn’t match the album versions. Ladytron also sported a “real” band—a bass player, guitarist, and drummer, and the drummer in particular stood out.—one long-assed solo combined with liberal use of the strobe nearly induced a seizure.

Lastly, the crowd was pretty fascinating to watch—there was some full-on disco dancing taking place, with a large contingent of gay club kids in the house. Still, overall, I was somewhat disappointed with this show, especially in comparison with other shows I’ve seen from similar bands—the Orb, Underworld, Sneaker Pimps, Kasabian. Give this one a 5.9—above average, but left me wanting. This band is better on CD than they are live.


sacklunch said...

Excellent review, even with all of the tangents....When did you find time to write that.....

Jimbromski said...

took about 30 min, I write muy rapido. the only thing that slows me down is posting the pix and dealing with the formatting.

Jumbo Slice said...

Wow, you detonated the template. Excellent review. Almost as good as the review for The Gossip. Oh, wait...there wasn't one.

Jimbromski said...

yeah, there's gonna be some repercussions if that review doesn't appear. that's a bad rule to break.

Potsy said...

Small head, eh? Grand Moff Tarkin was a bad mo' fo,' like me. Don't mess with GMT.

Anonymous said...

Well,I don't agree with you on a few points: I didnt really got if you were ironic when you wrote that all bands came out from industrial music were nazis suckers? To me, the use of nazis symbols comes from punks (eg. the sex pistols or Siouxsie sioux wearing 50 swastikas -while they were anarchists). Kind of provocation thing, use svastika as grotesque or insane symbol of what remains to be the most traumatising genocide in the world history.
Now the use of r2d2 type, samples etc. It's a question of subjectivity, well it's hard to convince a rock mucic fan to these sounds (and it's even harder with metalheads, in fact nearly impossible). Even if it's done with computers and loads of electronic type technologies, it IS music, electronic music, which could be truly good. Well, when bands release tracks with bruitist experimentation lasting 8 minutes it may be annoying.

But hilarious article indeed!

Anonymous said...

The names of genres are not only genres, but also movements (just like in visual art, hmmm??) They pertain to certain time periods, and collectives, but not necassarily a particular sound.

Just for the record you sound like a tool.