LONELADY – Former Things
[Post-Punk, Electro-Pop – UK – Warp]
Two age old music subgenres that are having thriving revivals (rethrivals!?) in the past few years are post-punk and electro-pop, especially in the UK. Just looking at the start of this decade we’ve had incredible post-punk newcomers such as Black Midi, Black Country New Road, Dry Cleaning and Shame emerge, as well as electro-pop disco fusions from Jessie Ware, Roisin Murphy and Marina. Naturally there exists space to find the best of both worlds. Enter LoneLady, alias of Manchester born artist, writer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Julie Campbell with her electric third album Former Things.
Right off the bat the opening 808 drum loops and chunky bass guitar grab you by the throat as choppy, funky grooves and twinkling synth lines whoosh by. ‘The Catcher’ hits you with sounds that are immediately reminiscent of New Order’s mid-’80s output combined with the wild energy that could grace a Christine & The Queens single. Topping this off is an urgent and commanding lead vocal from Campbell, that takes individual words and phrases such as “Eraser” and “Who’s the catcher?” and turns them into focal hooks. Adrian Belew-esque decaying guitar rushes zoom by alongside a whipping snare sound that could have been ripped straight from Bowie’s ‘Sound & Vision’. It’s such an immediate and attention grabbing start that leads perfectly into ‘(There Is) No Logic’, which sounds like a Man Machine-era Kraftwerk song strapped with a jetpack.
The title track lyrically feels like a direct look at lockdown life with observations such as “I’ve lived inside a dream too long / I return to normality / I’m not who I used to be”. Perhaps the idea of longing for former things that we used to be able to do freely and took for granted before the pandemic; a feeling that looms over this track and in some regards the whole record. The idea could go further through Campbell’s abilities to take classic music instruments, vintage drum machines and influences of ’70s and ’80s sounds and styles and look at them through a fresh light. This track is one of the few moments that comes close to feeling restrained and paired back; much too detailed and lively to be the album’s ballad. ‘Time Time Time’ furthers LoneLady’s abilities to pair together so many interesting textures as the whirring guitars wrap so tightly around juddering beats, whilst the manic ‘Threats’ has a sonic edge to it that sounds like someone desperately holding onto their last life as they are about to crush the world record on an old video game arcade machine. Performing and producing almost everything here, Campbell captures a remarkable duality between the intricate and detailed instrumentals and a vocal performance that is all sweat and fire.
Over forty relentless minutes, Former Things is a brilliant, captivating, energetic rager that grinds, twists, bounces off the walls and manages to trailblaze and explode before ever becoming tiresome. Campbell may have an excellent knack of pairing together elements of post-punk and electro-pop but it never feels as deliberate or calculated as that. LoneLady doesn’t swing the pendulum too far towards sounding like New Order at one end or Christine & The Queens at the other end, but rather stamps out her own huge shiny golden flag right in the middle.
Former Things is available now through Warp Records.