Marnie: Strange Words And Weird Wars

- In the heady days of the two thousand-and-noughties, there were few better electronic bands than Ladytron, the two boy/two girl combo who turned catchy synth pop into something that was equal parts beautiful and menacing in its deadpan purity. A lot of the band’s success can be attributed to the distinctive vocals of their lead singer Helen Marnie, whose voice was crystalline but also matter-of-fact. Her tone and phrasing were remarkable but she also had admirable restraint. Marnie wasn’t into vocal acrobatics, she just sang the damn song, and Ladytron’s music was so much classier for it. Also while Ladytron have not broken up, they haven’t put out a new album since 2011’s understated Gravity The Seducer. However, fans have been more than compensated with Marnie’s brilliant 2013 solo record Crystal World and, even more impressively, her brand new long-player Strange Words and Weird Wars.

Her previous record took the Ladytron template of elegant electronic pop music, and added a bit more emotion and slightly less aloofness. Her new album, by comparison, is even more warm and generous. Although the most appealing aspects of Marnie’s music remain intact – the icy synths, the winter-lake pure vocals – this is her most outgoing, unapologetic pop record to date. The beats are beefier, and the pop hooks could have come from the pin-ups in an ‘80's high school locker. Electric Youth isn’t the Debbie Gibson classic, but it may as well be – an infectious pop tune that in an alternate universe could have soundtracked a high school disco scene in a movie starring the Coreys.

This upbeat atmosphere continues in Little KnivesG.I.R.L.S. and Alphabet Block, the latter track (which also opens the album) swelling with a sighing chorus and shoegazey guitars. Being Marnie, there are darker moments as well, with the menacing throb of Lost Maps and the haunting 3am lullaby A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. But even these tracks boast the same warm accessibility of the more upbeat numbers on the album. She’s even finding a musical space where both Lady Gaga and Chvrches would be at home in Invisible Girl.

So while I’d be as excited as anyone if Ladytron came out with new material, if Marnie keeps coming out with music of this quality, I reckon we’ll be okay. For me, this album is pretty much a yardstick for how good electronic pop music can be.

- Matt Thrower.

Album Details

Album Title: Strange Words And Weird Wars
Artist: Marnie
Record Label: (Disco Piñata)