Ladyhawke - Anxiety

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In an interview with NME earlier this year, Pip Brown declared that her long-awaited second-album would be taking a new direction. “It’s a lot more rocky,” she explained. “There’s no synth, but there’s some organ. It’s more of a straight-up rock record.” Given her self-titled debut Ladyhawke came at almost the peak of synth’s reign – which, as La Roux quite rightly noted, is now very much “over” – it’s no surprise that Brown would want to (or have to) find a new sound for her second album. Now, almost four years on from the eponymous debut comes Ladyhawke’s second album, Anxiety.

First up, I should preface this review with the admission that circa 2008, I was a Ladyhawke fan. I was one among the many faces beaming up at Pip Brown from the 2010 Big Day Out crowd, still, a couple of years after Ladyhawke ’s release enjoying the record’s way of making 80s throwback synth-pop singles like Dusk til Dawn feel new and enduringly fun, catchy and accessible. Atop that, I still rate the sole 2006 album from her and Nick Littlemore’s oft-overlooked collaboration Teenager as one of my favourite Australian releases of recent years. All of which is to say: I really wanted to like Anxiety.

But truth be told, I just didn’t. It’s not that the album is technically bad, or falls into any of the usual traps: it’s not as though Brown isn’t talented, there are no poorly-executed hair brain attempts, the production is fine and neither the subject matter nor the style is cheesy, superficial or overwrought. It all works fine, it’s just that it feels a bit… boring. Maybe it’s just my obvious bias towards electronic music; but I can’t help but feel that the step towards rock-ier territory only feels like a step backwards.

Anxiety arguably doesn’t break any new ground and while I can appreciate that the album may be intended in part as a tribute to simple, guitar-driven rock, without doing that superbly and without offering something unique, it just fails to engage. While out-and-out rock lovers and diehard Ladyhawke fans may well disagree, to the casual listener Anxiety ’s problem is just that it is too bland.

Perhaps part of the problem is the lack of variety between tracks. The album feels much the same from start to finish, which to some may be viewed as consistency, but in effect only adds to its lack of engagement. Title track Anxiety, opener Girl Like Me and the lead single Black, White & Blue are at the catchier end of the spectrum and are decent pop-rock offerings, while the likes of Vaccine and Sunday Drive just feel uninspired.

Though on the whole, I find it difficult to differentiate terribly between the 10 tracks, which blend together into something that at only 36 minutes in total, feels a lot longer than it should. The 80s-inspired flavour of Ladyhawke’s debut is still there and for that she’ll no doubt retain many of her original fans, but I’d wager that newcomers like Catcall have stepped into that retro-feel indie niche and are, frankly, doing it better.

Perhaps taken in isolation, Anxiety ’s singles will prove more enjoyable. But as a whole, I’m disappointed to say that I don’t think Ladyhawke’s second album does enough to recapture an audience attention which after four years, has probably drifted away.

Anxiety is released May 25 through Modular.

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