With new album ‘Strange Words And Weird Wars’ Marnie proves that she still rules when it comes to powerful pop.
‘Strange Words And Weird Wars’ (released on 2 June) is the eagerly awaited follow-up to Helen Marnie’s 2013 solo album ‘Crystal World’ and cements her status as one of the queens of electro-pop – a role that began as the lead vocalist, keyboard player and songwriter in pioneering band Ladytron.
Album opener – and the first single – ‘Alphabet Block’ perfectly introduces Marnie’s sound. It is a melodic and epic ride on pulsating synths with Marnie’s breathy and shimmering vocals driving the song upwards. ‘Bloom’ continues the throbbing synths while the lyrics describe the fight for a relationship. The repetition of “I’m in trouble again” throughout the chorus ensures that it is a ridiculously catchy pop song that could easily be a chart topper for someone like Kylie. It can’t be, because what you quickly realise about this album is the importance of Marnie’s distinctive vocals – icy cool but with a warm vulnerability. It feels like she is the only person who can truly convey her words. On ‘G.I.R.L.S.’ she sings “we’re only human” whilst sounding her most android, with her vocal layers then developing into a cheerleading chant reminiscent of Gwen Stefani and Ladyhawke.
‘Electric Youth’ is a standout track for me. It is pure vintage 80s power pop down to the use of a guitar riff – think Jane Wiedlin classic ‘Rush Hour’ – but, again, Marnie’s vocals and lyrics bring it bang up to date. ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ slows the pace and invokes an ominous feeling reflected in the name of the track, as her vocals echo and melt into the powerful and insistent synths.
‘Lost Maps’ – another standout – opens like a dancefloor classic and this continues as the track winds up with Marnie’s echoing vocals and a tapping beat that sounds like the cracking of whips. It’s an epic backdrop for a track that lyrically plays on your fears – with the words “don’t believe what they tell you” reverberating in your head. This sense of anxiety is a theme that runs through this album – the tracks may be different but the sense of unease remains. It’s a demonstration of Marnie’s songwriting dexterity that this album delves into darkwave while still making you want to dance through your nagging fears.
‘Summer Boys’ sounds like an ode to memories viewed without the softening of rose-tinted glasses over a pounding beat. ‘Little Knives’ features verses with a tribal beat and distorted sound that shifts to a crystal clear and stunningly sharp chorus. ‘Invisible Girl’ touches on the distance in a relationship through chart-bothering pop and album closer ‘Heartbreak Kid’ takes a sinister gothic-sounding turn.
There’s nothing strange or weird about the appeal of this album – it’s addictive synth-pop at its best – and with it, Marnie assumes the mantle laid down by current electro-pop artists and reigns supreme.