Floods of haters and pop illiterates shouted down Ladyhawke four years ago, defending themselves by saying that the New Zealander was doing nothing more than reinforcing the creation of 80s monstrosities, and that she thought she was some sort of Debbie Harry with Asperger’s. So what? If we had to burn all of the newcomers lacking musical technique or virtuosity at the stake, we wouldn’t have enough matches to go around. On this barometer, only one thing counts: orgies of hits. And whether you like it or not, her debut for Modular caught us all point-blank with an arsenal of easy songs that could be played on any dance floor whose dress code promoted shoulder pads and Amancio Ortega leather jackets. “Paris Is Burning”, “Dusk Till Dawn” and “Another Rainway” are still hits years later. And that counts for more than any grudging review written about her.
Having said that, “Anxiety”, produced once again by Pascal Gabriel, sticks to the same formula of simple songs that take over your cerebellum from the very first listen. However, she lets herself get carried away with overproduction, the hot clichés of radio-formula new wave, restricting the strictly synth moments to almost nothing. There is no space left for “Magic”, but there is an entire arsenal of songs like “My Delirium” that go down one after the other as easily as crisps from a bag. The album’s short running time also helps.
So why this mark? No, I haven’t stopped taking the medication that she confesses to swallowing down wholesale in the title song. Setting aside one’s inner fan, we have to be realistic and make it clear that Ladyhawke, like Lana Del Rey, will never leave us hanging like Björk has because of her vocal chords. The poor thing is apathy personified, and she sings everything exactly the same way. Sort of like a robot that goes completely psychotic if you take away his script. She doesn’t have it in her to do it any better, but that is part of her charm. A guilty pleasure.
The same is true of the instrumentation. It doesn’t matter what song you put on from her last album, because (almost) all of them sound the same. The same drum, the same guitar riff, the same elementary-school rhymes. Only on “Cellophane” or, prancing around in the 60s “Girl Like Me” (although it doesn’t explode, consequentially being a little like masturbating without actually coming), does she seem to distance herself from her clichés.
But like I said in the beginning, the hits are what counts here. And there’s no denying that there are some. The candidates are very clear. The very Roxette “Gone, Gone Gone”, “Vanity” and its saturated guitar, or the onomatopoeia filled chorus of “Blue Eyes” reaffirm the New Zealander as a provider of outstanding pop, when it comes to exporting bombs ready to explode in the midst of a wild bout of drinking. For the next album, which we hope won’t be as long in coming as this one has been, the solution is easy: give Pascal Gabriel his walking papers. A third release without a whit of innovation would have nothing left to contribute.