April 17, 2012

Review: Ladyhawke's Anxiety

Pip Brown – aka Ladyhawke – scaled the indie pop peak back in 2008 with her near-perfect eponymous debut. That album was a hope chest of 80’s styles coalescing around a voice that could move from tough to sweet in seconds. It established her as a worthy heir to classic guitar/synth pop like Pat Benatar. The fan base for the album was a rare Venn diagram of indie hipsters and pop kidz bouncing in unison to the beat. The remixes spawned from it were consistently the best of 2008 and 2009.

It's with this lead-in that we all awaited the sophomore album so anxiously. The pressure to follow such an auspicious debut has led to the aptly titled Anxiety, which, sadly, does not best its predecessor. Clocking in at under 40 minutes, Anxiety has some gems, but too often follows the same blueprint in song after song. Rather than work with a variety of producers, Brown chose to record the album with just one, Pascal Gabriel. In theory, they should have delivered a defined sound for the album. After all, it was Gabriel who co-wrote and produced earlier favorites like Magic, My Delirium and Another Runaway. Instead, Gabriel weighs Anxiety down with a static guitar-heavy template, scoring weak melodies to the same tempo throughout.

There are some successes. Black White & Blue, with a clear nod to The Bee Gees' Tragedy, is one of the poppier tracks on Anxiety. Despite a wicked cool video - an Eyes Of Laura Mars homage - the single flat-lined.

Cellophane highlights the album's problem. Not only is it light years ahead of any other song on Anxiety, but it also stands among Brown's finest moments. A blazing stadium ballad, it's propelled by power chords and a melancholy lyric. The chorus is perhaps her finest recorded moment: "All those years we spent running away, we never knew / That it was meant to be, that it was meant to be."

Gone Gone Gone will likely go over well live, but the too simple "you're gone, you're gone, you're gone" chorus is a bit... reductive. Sunday Drive - which I confuse with the debut's superior Better Than Sunday - is indicative of the album's problem. It's not only repetitive, but can't even muster a proper middle eight (other than a fuzzy guitar solo).

Anxiety was originally due in March, but has been pushed to May 25 June 4 in most territories, with the label attempting a reboot via new single Sunday Drive. I don't think it'll work. As a fan, I hate to write a review like this. Pip Brown is aces, just not this time out. She still creates fun music - Anxiety is not a true fail - but it lacks what Ladyhawke, the debut, had in spades: MAGIC.


Daniel said...

I want the watercoloured cats back.

xolondon said...

Comment of the week! Preach!