Time felt like it was standing still when Ladytron began writing their newest album.
“The recording period happened pretty much when the world was at the epicenter of Covid-19,” says Helen Marnie, a vocalist, keyboardist and songwriter for the English electronic band. “I didn’t want to write about being confined or, you know, being in your own little bubble. So for me, it was about taking myself out of that world.”
Ladytron’s latest album, “Time’s Arrow,” dropped Friday. With a shimmering, synth-filled sound, the band tackles change, loss and the passage of time, looking back at more than 20 years since their formation in Liverpool in the 1990s. “You can’t count on time,” the band warns in a lyric emblematic of the entire album.
It’s more of a logistical challenge to make music together now, with band members scattered far away from each other and “fine-tuned operations” required to reunite them, Marnie says.
But in the band’s early days, she remembers going through formative experiences like her first tour in a tight-knit group with the other three members: Mira Aroyo, Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu.
“You’re so young, and you’re collectively going — you’re going through it together,” Marnie says. “I think you’re kind of like a gang. So it feels like fun and crazy and a bit mad.”
At the time, she hadn’t even quite figured out who she was.
“I was just a kid,” Marnie remembers. “I was just a kid, and you know, I hadn’t experienced that much. And then I was thrown into this world of music. I would say I’m a completely different person to the girl I was then.”
She’s since faced highs and lows with Ladytron. At the worst point, Marnie says, they took a seven-year hiatus. But at its height, they toured the Sydney Opera House.
“It was all an experience” looking back, Marnie says, and looking back is exactly what she’s been doing lately. After all, the band chose “Time’s Arrow” for the recent album name, after a Martin Amis novel where events happen in reverse chronological order.
“That novel being about time happening in reverse kind of made sense,” Marnie says. “We’ve all missed a lot of time.”
The lyrics on “Time’s Arrow” are complex, nuanced and fun. Every band member penned a few songs, so each offers a distinct appeal. Some lines stand out for creative vocabulary — think “City of angels, semaphores disappear, disappear” (“City of Angels”).
Others are striking for their emotional resonance: “Off with our heads, still holding hands” (“Sargasso Sea”).
Though she doesn’t agree with criticism calling Ladytron’s past albums cold, Marnie says she thinks “Time’s Arrow” might be its most positive, energetic work yet.
“I think Ladytron’s music [has] always been considered quite dark and icy,” she says. “I’ve never actually agreed with it. I don’t agree with that at all. But maybe there is more of a warmth in this album than, say, the previous album.”
Nevertheless, they haven’t changed too much, Marnie insists.
“It’s still quintessentially Ladytron.”
The band tours England this March before stopping in the U.S. West Coast this May.