Ladytron / Olympic Lifts

Scala, London, 14 November, 2001

[Ladytron ticket] "Ladytron have brought something important back to avant-hard electronics"

There were lots of diminutive female Ladytron looki-likies, complete with matching jet black hair and all-black outfits, milling around Robotron style awaiting the emergence of these latest Liverpudlian marvels. First up however, were Olympic Lifts. With their logo brandishing, black and white banners they wouldn't look out of place on the industrial scene but their sound would. It's an eclectic, clever mix of rap, hip hop, funk and electronica brought together on stage utilising sampling, scratching, two guitarists (who also doubled up as sychronised drummers), and two MCs. The cleverly constructed songs varied across the above mentioned styles, occasionally blending them all into one. The songwriting was far more mature than their young appearance would imply. The two rappers (in their matching red shirts) valiantly fighting against their nerdy teen looks (and failing). Their constant leaping up and down and cliched rap posturing looked very much like teenagers living out their dreams of music industry stardom and their "fucking" swearing between every track was juvenile and very quickly really irritating. I was tempted to shout back "Stop fucking swearing" but decided not to. Provided you didn't watch them in action, and simply took their music for what it is, it was easy to be impressed by these upstarts. Doubts remain as to how much of the backing music was actually their own but, nevertheless, they proved their talent tonight. Give 'em time to grow up and these boys could be a very formidable bunch indeed.

[604 album cover] DJ Andy Weatherall warmed the capacity crowd for the headliners with some suitably hard bleeps and beats. With an impressive array of (largely analogue) synthesisers and keyboard (I think I counted NINE!) waiting for them, uniformally black-clad from head to toe, the two guys and two gals who are Ladytron took up their nicely symmetrical positions on stage and unleashed an uncompromisingly hard-edged take on their alluring retro inspired electronics. Managing to effortlessly avoid the avant-wank of Add N to X, and at the same time surpassing that band's strained attempts at 'cool', Ladytron prove you can write catchy tunes without compromising on the extremities of your electronics. Although normally straight faced, the presentation was entirely devoid of pretension as the laughter that followed the incorrect introduction of one of the songs proved. This was a tight, one-hour journey through their debut album 604. As one might expect, comprising as it did live of purely synthesisers and nothing else (okay a Stylophone nudged its way in a couple of times), the music was faithful to the recording but analogue synths being what they are, and with not one but two MS20s doing their thing, there was enough unpredictable squealing and warbling to keep most everything fresh.

From the opening back projections of the 'renewal' scene from the suitably groovy Logan's Run, the backing visuals added (via the 'light-tunnel' scene towards the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey through to specially commissioned footage of the band members passive faces passing gracefully behind them) a psychedelic, if sometimes repetitive ambient backdrop throughout. Whilst neither vocalist is likely to win praise for the robustness of their voices both are perfectly suited to their genre and the distinctiveness of the two vocal stylings is well placed across the song types. Not since watching Kraftwerk have I seen such a perfectly 'orchestrated' live electronic band. From the image, through the live presentation, and onto the very songs themselves, Ladytron have brought something important back to avant-hard electronics, namely some great tunes and songs.

Rob Dyer