Imagine if Brian Eno produced ABBA, and Nico was asked to join: the result would probably sound a lot like Stereolab. Whether it’s the garage-band sound of Refried Ectoplasm’s “Harmonium” or the minimalist “The Noise of Carpet” from their 1996 breakthrough Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Stereolab has maintained its super-cool persona via surreal lyrics, the aloof voice of Laetitia Sadier, and Europop-meets-lounge arrangements.
The band started in 1991 after the breakup of guitarist Tim Gane’s former group, McCarthy and included Gane, Sadier, and a few session musicians borrowed from other bands. The core duo released a myriad of singles, which were compiled onto Switched On in 1992. That same year, Mary Hansen and Andy Ramsay joined as permanent members and Stereolab released a full-length album and an EP of new studio material.
|About the openers: Quasi
Alumni of all things indie, Quasi will bless us with their presence when they open for Stereolab at the Troc on Nov. 12. Their forth album, The Sword of God, was released in September, along with Early Recordings, a re-issue of their first recordings. The duo includes drummer Janet Weiss (of Sleater-Kinney fame) and singer/guitarist/roxichordist Sam Coomes (ex-Donner Party, Heatmiser). Having opened for and backed Elliott Smith during his XO tour, Quasi has received a substantial underground buzz.
The Sword of God is saturated with Coomes’ innate ability to write humorous lyrics about the depressing and everyday world. Lines like “You got a career: you chose boredom over fear, and you got the human race, and you got Jesus, just in case,” are typical fare. Outstanding song writing, along with Weiss’ clean, complex beats have put their albums on many a critic’s “best of” lists.
Amazing live, the band’s catchy melodies promote head bopping throughout their audiences. Coomes’ technique of playing the roxichord (a keyboard/organ type instrument) may catch the Quasi virgins in the audience off guard. Yes, it appears that he mounts it … need I go on? It is extremely amusing to watch. Weiss’ drumming is also entrancing. She makes her syncopated beats seem effortless.
Not a lot of interaction between the crowd and band goes on during their shows, but none is needed. It’s enough for the crowd to witness one of the most talented groups of the moment playing perfectly executed indie-rock songs. Like the last song on the new album, the theme of every Quasi performance is “Rock & Roll Can Never Die.”
In the following years, the band would demonstrate equal feats of prolificacy, soon becoming popular not only amongst the music-snob realm, but also with alt-music experts such as Sonic Youth and, of course, Blur. The latter band gave Sadier co-vocal duties on their lush Parklife track “To the End,” and helped Stereolab get recognized on a somewhat larger level. Inevitably, the group’s sound started to expand from their initial drone-y, mood music and they began experimenting with different genres such as hip-hop and dance to become quite accessible. This is best demonstrated on 1997s Dots and Loops, where the band’s best-known track, “Miss Modular,” is featured.
After a host of material was released and a few roster changes were made, Stereolab released Sound-Dust this year to somewhat mixed reviews. While critics seemed to enjoy it, some fans thought Stereolab was selling out by further developing their new catchy flavor. Upon listening, however, you’ll hear that the album is well-made and does retain the best elements of Stereolab while evolving their sound into a style that is more palatable; something that can only help the group.
Tracks such as “Captain EasyChord” and “Nothing To Do With Me” border on bubble gum pop, while “Spacemoth” is muzak bliss. Stereolab probably won’t make enough noise with this album to get themselves on the cover of Rolling Stone (so fear not, hipsters), but it certainly shouldn’t be surprising to see a video of theirs on MTV2 either. The band will most likely continue to keep its musical tastiness at arm’s length while pushing the envelope of its Continental sound for years to come.
Stereolab will play the Trocadero with Quasi on Monday, Nov. 12.