Thinking can ruin a good piece of music. It can enhance the listening experience, too, but trying to insert reason where it doesn’t belong is the best way to miss the point, especially when there isn’t one. Ladyhawke’s self-titled debut isn’t a thinking album, but it’s not a dumb one either. On Ladyhawke, underneath the glitz, there’s more glitz. Instead of a cake with chocolate frosting, it’s like a cake with three different layers of four different types of chocolate.
Ladyhawke, one Pip Brown, has made an album more or less free from cerebral complication and self-awareness. The simple guitar and synth pop that makes up the twelve tracks on this album aren’t testaments to sonic exploration, but they’re not what I would call "just fun," either. These songs succeed the same way John Hughes movies and footage of kittens do.
There’s ten different kinds of adolescent anxiety and fever threatening to spill out of "Back of the Van," with its shiny synths and romantic tale of teenage trepdiation. Elsewhere, on tracks like "Paris Is Burning" and "Another Runaway," the album taps into that same kind of youthful urgency and dissatisfaction. But the effective thing about the work as a whole has to be the execution with which each song is delivered: Everything is in exactly the right place, as if Brown’s been sitting by her favorite FM radio station taking notes and making diagrams.
There’s a couple of times where the power of pop fails the record: "Crazy World" sounds like it was written in five minutes, and "Love Don’t Live Here" is a cliche that I don’t think the most rapturous Top 40 adherent could get behind. Such is the danger when you decide to go straight for the sugar.
But the sugar still wins out 10 times out of 12. We can quibble about intent and expression, but in the end you will have to succumb to the heart, body and soul, and your brain might be left behind.