Mad Happy/Ladytron

Mad Happy: Feel Good Music…For the Broke Middle Class (Bar/None)
Ladytron: Light & Magic (Emperor Norton)

The initial wave of ’80s/Wave revivalism came to us along two tracks: the release of countless compilation CDs and the resurrection/resuscitation of dozens of acts, from Duran Duran to Vince Neil. Luckily, the newest phase in the return to New Wave is the best of all: original music with influences clearly dating back two decades.

Recently, Mad haPPy made its St. Louis debut, playing to a tiny but enthusiastic house at Frederick’s. The group’s equally small: singer/guitarist Mike iLL and backing vocalist/dancer Rivka, plus the all-important drum machine. Live, they definitely gave a few nods to Wave, with klinky little beats and doubled-up lead vocals.

On album, there’s more Mike iLL, less Rivka, and lots of additional live instrumentation. Blending a really weird mix of dancey-pop, hip-hop, punk, and folk, songs like “The Rock and Roll,” “Bite Size Pieces,” and “Magdeline” don’t sound like anything on contemporary radio. Live, there’s something extra: the spaced-out, but self-confident pair and their trusty backing machine, a unique sight. But, on disc, there’s still a sneaky, likable quality.

While Mad haPPy criss-cross the county in DIY fashion, winning fans a handful at a time, Ladytron look like a group ready to explode into national exposure. Their second album, Light & Magic, is being hailed everywhere, including a fat mention in a recent Rolling Stone. With great haircuts and a better album than their clever but tepid debut, Ladytron are cool, sexy, and crazy enough to write songs that summon that ghosts of Human League, Gary Numan, and Devo. (Band members claim to not enjoy the League; yeah, right.)

The cheeky “Seventeen” seems the odds-on favorite to be the group’s defining track, but other songs, including the title track, the opening “True Mathematics,” and “Blue Jeans,” are buzz along with coldly evocative charm. Retro? Futuristic? Delightful.

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