Socialist Krautrock For The Now Generation
*special introductory paragraph!
*Switched On
*Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements
*Mars Audiac Quintet
*Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On Volume 2)
*Emperor Tomato Ketchup
*Dots And Loops
*Aluminum Tunes
*The Groop Played "Space Age Batchelor Pad Music" EP
*Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night
*The First Of The Microbe Hunters
*ABC Music
*Instant 0 In The Universe EP
*Margerine Eclipse
*Fab Four Suture
*Chemical Chords
*Not Music

I know what you're thinking: What in Sam Hill is a "Stereo Lab"? Is it some sort of scientific laboratory filled with turntables and Bunsen Burners??? Is THAT what it is!? Because that's what I think it is. That's what you're saying. But no, it's not. It's a brand of peanut butter.

The first time I heard Stereolab (1993, right when the Transient etc. CD came out), I was astonished by how outrageously enjoyable their simple, smooth, bouncy little music was. It reminded me a little of Middle Class Revolt-era Fall and Imperial-era Unrest, but BETTER. The production was spectacular, with easy-to-play guitar lines merging with smooth, neato 60s-style keyboard tones and tappity-tap drumbeats to create a wash of mesmerizing silkiness topped with the creamy, sultry goodness of a female singer named Latitia Sadier who must be French or some crap because she often sings in French or some crap and even when she sings in English or some crap, her pronunciation is all weird and normal syllable emphasis goes out the window, of which you make a better door than you do it. Apparently she also often sings Socialist lyrics, the un-American slattern, but you know these rock and roll kids. Before you know it, she'll be selling her tunes to auto companies. But anywhere, as time went (cruised) along like Jim Croce's time in a bottle, the 'Labradors started developing their sound past its early primitive two-chordisms into wider-ranging slops and trops before choosing a focus on bachelor pad type groovy exotica music. In the meantime, I heard an old '70s song by Faust called "Krautrock" as well as picking up a few albums by a late-60s Brazilian band called Os Mutantes and I discovered - HEY! WAIT A MINUTE! Stereolab didn't come up with anything new at all! They're just exploring pre-established musical temptations! I didn't give a shit though, because Stereolab are a fabulous, gorgeous band, And REM used to sound just like The Byrds too, remember. Didn't make 'em a copycat band. Stereolab's music is much smoother and drop dead gorgeous than Faust or Os Mutantes ever even tried to be. So leave them be, Mr. Malarkey!

Switched On - Slumberland 1992.
Rating = 9

I hope you didn't purchase this record thinking it was that live Henry Rollins album that all the kids are talking about! Not only does this album not feature "The Dietmar Song," but it doesn't even have a tattoo! However still, rarely will you find a band that sounds this perfect right out of the box. This is a collection of early singles and it sounds more like a professional band that's been around playing musical numbers for years on end than a band just finding their place in this cruel, unforgiving world in which a guy almost kicked my ass today because I told him he was "full of shit". Apparently "tough guys" don't like it when you tell them that. Be sure to make a note in your roster of lies. But about the record - well, the guitar lines are clean and VERY simplistic, the groovy sixties bachelor pad organs (by which I mean farfisas and moogs, not penis, though that certainly does qualify as a "bachelor pad organ," I suppose) are swirly chic and hypnotic, the drums are uptempo and doom-doom-chicka and most importantly, the vocals are far beyond angelically gorgeous. Honestly if it weren't for Sadier's sensuous, cute, adorable French voice, I probably wouldn't give this band a second listen. But she sounds so gorgeous, it elevates the music far above mere Kraut Rock-influenced jive turkey music. Lots of energy here, with an emphasis on hypnotic repetition and unforgettable vocal melodicism (often multi-tracked female vox competing against and complementing each other), as opposed to the tropicalia Martin Denny-esque music they would be performing later. At times it feels like you're listening to one long song, but that may just be because all the songs are so simple and simply wonderful that you can't really tell one from the other until you've heard the disc several times through.

Reader Comments (Greg Bougopoulos)
The early Stereolab sound still needed some tinkering after listening to this. Some are the numbers are boring or don't have as great a melody as the later stuff. This is readily apparent on the last half of this release. Still, I'm guessing that these were the b-sides to the singles since the first half is very good. "Super Electric" is one of their best rockers, even if like most of their early songs the Neu!/faust influence is heavy. The disc might be worth it just for "The Way Will Be Opening" though. Such a beautiful number. I have to give this a 5 overall, however. It just doesn't compare to what was to come. (John Maitland)
A fun album with some great pure pop tunes, stereolab guitar like a refined my bloody valentine. the girlie voice always made me excited

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Peng! - Too Pure 1992.
Rating = 8

Still mostly great, but not as consistently so. This is a VERY minimalist musical style they've got goin' down so unless there's a rather remarkable vocal thing hap'nin or the three chords are an uproarious hoedown of gleeful proletariat fun (like the superior "Stomach Worm"), stagnation may threaten to occur. And at a few points on here, it DO threaten just thart. Both the tittie track and "You Little Shits," for perspample, sound just like all the others but in a more boring, predictable manner. Also, in case you've got a KleenexT handy, this album seems to have more slow songs on it than the last one. This isn't a problem and I'm not complaining to Mayor Rudolph Guiliani (who shut down all the porn shops in town at the same time he was fucking some slut behind his wife's back) about it, but it's worth noting. They're already changing their tune ever so slightly. Or rather, their tempo. The tune itself isn't changing at all. It's still mostly tonic-subdominant-tonic-subdominant in a relaxing, watching a stopwatch sort of fig. I have no clue what I'm trying to say here. Eat shit!

There's a lyrics sheet here - let me see what we've got. "In our Christian society/There's something wrong with having pleasure/Pleasure more precisely is called sin/Therefore our well thinking citizens/Have decided it was best to hide, deny pleasures (such as sex, drugs)/Out of the repression of pleasure/Something logically came into the light/Something much graver than sex, drugs/Perversion could only entail regression/Of a civilization that would avoid mastering anxiety/That would distort the truth/Corrupt behaviour."

Can one even read aloud such a delightful verse without tapping one's fingers and toes in rhythmic shenanigan?

Reader Comments (Greg Bougopoulos)
Definitely more minimalist songs than the early sides, this is not a great release, but it still manages to be a worthwhile listen and purchase. The melodies are getting better on the most part, and even if there no true knockouts on this album, it makes for a nice listen. Mark, you're right when you say that boredom can easily set in due to the lazy nature of the songs, but thankfully only a couple ("K Stars" and "Surrealchemist" being the big offenders) can be considered background music for now people. Besides, there's enough upbeat material here. "Mellotron" will get your get head bopping up and down before you know it. I'm going to give this a low 8, just because I can do that. (Alan Hawkins)
I guess every band has to start off somewhere, but why is this album so repetitive and dull?? it's almost infuriatingly tedious - the guitar sound is very nice and towards the beginning of the album there are one or two really pleasant pieces of dreamy, droney-style rock ("Orgiastic" for example) - but after that it just all starts to sound the same, I don't have "switched on vol.1" yet - so I'm hoping that one's better, I'll give this album a 5.
You know, I've pretty much always known that Stereolab exists. I'd heard a handful of their songs, and I even bought Emperor Tomato Ketchup and liked it fairly well. But up until about a month ago, I was never really INTO them, you know? But then one day on a whim I just decided to download a bunch of their albums and what do you know? It turns out that I absolutely fucking LOVE this band. They're the most exciting thing to come into my life musically since Liars a couple years back. Why did I wait so long? Recently I've been thinking about how there's a lot of bands like that in my collection. Bands that I always kinda liked one album by but had never really given a fair shake. And I've decided that I'm going to finally take the plunge and listen to their entire catalog. Starting with Stereolab. And to help track my progress, I'm going to share all my thoughts on their catalog as I take it in piece by piece on your website. So:

Peng! - Surprisingly strong and consistent debut album. Some of the stuff here already sounds like classic Stereolab. The first four tracks in particular are very strong: "Super Falling Star" is, except for maybe "Brakhage," still the strongest opening track on a Stereolab album (dig those harmonies!), and "Peng 33" is perfect power pop, far from boring as you suggest. After that, things get a bit patchier: there is a particularly regrettable two song trough consisting of "Perversion" and "You Little Shits" that threatens to lose my interest, but there are some fun songs on the flip side, like "Stomach Worm," which makes me want to pogo all over my living room every time I hear it. Unfortunately, the production leaves a lot to be desired, as the sound of the whole thing is kinda tinny and lacks punch. Still though, Peng! deserves a very solid (7/10).

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Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements - Elektra 1993.
Rating = 9

Upgrading their sound with deeper money-driven production, more goings-on in the songs, a bit of lounge influence in a couple tunes, loads of wacky studio effects (making it sound like the record is skipping, etc), and oodles upon howdy doodles of slambangup pretty as a picture voicebox maladies, the Stereoflabs begin their major label career much the same way they began their minor label one - by fucking RULING!!!! Oh excuse me, they're Socialists. By fucking WORKING TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD OF ALL SOCIETY!!!!

The band has SEX people in it now, so all SEX of them work together to create an orgy of sound to make you come and get off on their innovative dickweed. No more will you be bored by a two-chord song. Not when one of the guitar dudes keeps switchin' around, playing a high two-note melody here, a lower drone chord there - and when there are about five trillion different keyboards creating fluffy, ziffy, zapdapdippy sounds, not to mention the fact that there's a NEW SECOND female vocalist in the band, which probably meant that they both ended up on the same menstrual cycle and also meant that they could do even more neatass against-each-other singing and Boyce/Hart-like harmonizing.

The album hits a wide-esque variety of moods too. The first song sounds like Stereolab but sassier, the second one is angry and driving (like Zsa Zsa Gabor- HOLY FUCK AM I A COMEDIAN OF NOTE!) and gets punk rock oi at the end, the third one is lounge groove like the Jetsons, the fourth one is simple and smooth like a summer's breeze, the fifth one has screwyass noises all through it and is slow as a Velvet Underground track, the sixth one has creepy background French whisperings through a distortion pedal and honk-shittin'ly tough, girdle-filled harmony la's, the seventh one is five million years long, the eighth one is like heavy metal played by a bunch of artistes, the ninth one is the one that says "If there's been a way to build it, there'll be a way to destroy it/Things are not all that out of control" over and over again until your eyeball creeps out your nose into my beverage of his choice and the tenth track, conveniently located directly right past the Waffle House, is slow, mean, intense, dark, melancholy, pretty, good, like a creepy slithering bass guitar preparing to murder you in your bed of sanctity. As a whole, the album rules and is lousily shitty good!

Reader Comments (Greg Bougopoulos)
The band's bets album, even if that is not the usual belief. They continue to rip off Neu! (one part of "Jenny Ondioline" is essentially their song "Hallogallo" given more muscle), but I won't hold against them. After all, no Neu! or Faust or Amon Duul II had vocalists as graceful as a Laetitia Casta or a Mary Hansen...Oh I'm so damn funny--Casta instead of Sadier! All right, I try. Wouldn't that be fucked up if that was the case though? A beautiful, busty French woman singing these Marxist lyrics? Anyway, the album is great and I listen to it a lot to I'm going to give it a 10. (John Maitland)
Jenny ondolione the perfect three minute pop song that rocks for 20 minutes or something. The mark of a good song is if you want to do an extra block around work instead of stopping the car. When this tune is on I have to do six extra blocks. Also I am convinced everytime I listen to the song I hear a mystery third or fourth guitar track in the recording. Girlie voice still turning me on, like debbie harry on hormone replacement.. (Alan Hawkins)
I'm not a big fan of Stereolab's early stuff, most of it just sounds like one riff being repeated over and over, with a few cute vocal harmonies and nothing else of interest happening, I don't have the attention span for that, there's gotta be some kind of atmosphere to it at least! But this album is growing on me, there's some great, inventive little elecronic noises going on and some of the songs have a strange, hipnotic vibe underneath the drones of guitar and organ, I like it - and I give it a 7.
this is a fine album, not great (barley good) but still fine, stereolab's Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements is one of the most disappointing records i have ever heard, the first time i heard i absolutely loved it, it was pretty and new and melodic then the next couple of times i listened to it i realized the flaws: the jamming at the end of each song is as bad as stupid guitar noise in a sonic youth song, the studio effects hurt the record they don't help it and many of the songs are not well thought out, still their are some great moments (the first and third song especially) but overall it fails.

I've listened to all of Stereolab's albums at least once now, and I'm pretty certain that this is my favorite (assuming, of course, that Margarine Eclipse doesn't suddenly reveal itself as brilliant when I listen to it again). I downloaded it a month ago and it's already one of my all-time favorites. There's just something about it. The production is down and dirty the way I like it, but more importantly, the songs are fantastic. "Tone Burst" is the only track that strikes me as a little weak (just a little too simple and monotonous, but I do like how nutso the organ goes in the last couple minutes); everything else here is solid gold. "Jenny Ondioline" is so good that you don't even notice it's eighteen minutes long. "Pause" gives me chills (seriously, where the fuck do they come up with all these incredible harmonies?). All of the last five songs do, actually. Have you ever noticed that every Stereolab album is either really front-loaded or really back-loaded? Because I have. And this one is back-loaded. Not that the first five songs aren't really good, but the latter five are "holy shit holy shit" good. "Crest." That's all that needs to be said. I could listen to this album all day. An easy (10/10).

Fernie Canto
Since I'm sitting here doing boring work, i.e. fixing my computer since Linux decided to self-destruct and I completely lost my trust in it (free software is great, all birds and trees and rainbows when it works properly, i.e. Mozilla Firefox, otherwise it gives the world many a nasty headache and some of the most obnoxious, self-absorbed and useless communities ever), I've decided to send in some thoughts about Stereolab. File this paragraph under Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, since I'm gonna talk about that one now, and I want the world to know that I hate Linux -- or at least Kubuntu. Maybe the other distributions are fine (now hear this: "distro" is an objectively stupid word. I refuse to use it).

This may as well be their most vicious release. There's something unbearably direct and aggressive about Tim Gane's fondness for the more technical, science-y aspects of music making as well as 60's equipment and stereo test records (the album cover is actually just the cover of a famous Stereo Test Record, only with a different colour scheme and the "TEST RECORD" part of the title was removed and replaced by "LAB", to form the band title -- you can actually see that if you look closely), yet the music stays far away from being self-awarely "geeky" or obsessive. It's just very in-your-face and interesting. Besides, the music is awesome all the way to Hell and back. It is strong, menacing, yet absolutely endearing; witness how "Tone Burst" slowly changes from a "shuffly" upbeat guitar tune towards a mass of dischordant chaos! Witness the Hammond organ turned into a vicious machine in "Our Trinitone Blast"! Witness the slow, scorching fury of "Golden Ball"! Even the slow drone of "Pause" is awesome, with a completely warm, but disimbodied aura (that eerie breathy voice you hear was taken from a Numbers Station; other famous uses of Numbers Stations recordings are in Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and the Boards of Canada song "Gyroscope" -- I may be forgetting others). "Jenny Ondioline" is the ULTIMATE "Hallogallo"-Dinger/Rother-style song, and I love the poppier "Pack Yr Romantic Minds" (Laetitia is singing about pr0n, right?) and "I'm Going Out of My Way".

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Mars Audiac Quintet - Elektra 1994.
Rating = 8

HAY!!!!!! "Ping Pong" sounds just like The Association's "Along Comes Marijuana"!!!!!! Thumbs up from M Pranny! The rest of the album sounds like Blackfoot.

Oh okay, the rest of the album doesn't sound like Blackfoot. It sounds like Stereolab. More background "la la la"s and uptempo, hypnotizing drums keeping a heartbeat rhythm while the keyboards and guitars explore the modal possibilities of, you know, not doing a whole lot. Just flittering and fluttering around a few different notes and chords in each song. And there's less studio craziness action and stylistic diversity than on the last record. Which is weird, isn't it? You'd expect MORE diversity, wouldn't you? Wouldn't you in life, my neighbour? Instead, a bunch of these songs sound like they flew right off of Peng! The singer always ensures that there's a great singalongable melody though, even though it's really hard to tell what she's saying. Let's just hope all the lyrics aren't as stupid as those of "International Colouring Contest," which is about as one-dimensional and fanboyish as any given Wesley Willis anthem.

Oh hey! There's a lyrics sheet! And it says that this album has a brass section on it! So listen for that. Let's see what kind of lyrics we have here: "In whatever society/There invariably/Will seem to be/Just a few men/Keen to rule/Overwhelming/The majority/Will assent and/Allow them to do so." Strangely, this song is absolutely heartwarmingly beautiful. The guitar line is pure heaven. And the lyrics are pure obviousness!

In conclusion, this album at first seems a bit disappointing in comparison to the last one but that is ONLY because they went out of their way to make the last one so odd and diverse. This is just solid, awesome popfuzzglorytones by the band that plays them better than any other band ever has. Why tinker with studio trickery when your songs are already perfect?

Reader Comments (Greg Bougopoulos)
The 'Lab turn into a pop band, but they get a bit carried away and make the album over 70 minutes, leading to a few stinkers towards the end. Most of the songs are catchy, though, as Laetitia tells you to not to worry, to be happy, and to expect things to get better, naturally. Jesus Christ, if Mary Hansen wasn't in the background doing here ba-ba-da-ba-ba-ba's and here la-la-la's, I'd take that song and shove it down some Christian rocker's mouth. As it is, though, I like it very much, and enjoy a lot of other songs, like "Wow and Flutter", where Laetitia tells me once again that believing in God and the afterlife is stupid. If it isn't war is bad, religion is worthless, or capitalism is evil, there ain't any other message Stereolab provides in their lyrics. Yet we love 'em because they make us tap our feet. A low 8 for this one. (Alan Hawkins)
I've tried so many times to get into this album and I just can't, "Ping Pong" is a wonderful, upbeat, feelgood single, and was the song that introduced me to this band, and a couple of others are nice and relaxing - but most of these songs are just repetitive, organ-driven pop songs that go nowhwere and leave no impression at all. Mindnumbingly pointless music that happens to be played very well, I give a very low 6.


I actually came across your website googling to see if anyone has found out where stereolab "really" ripped off "ping pong" from. You said The association's : here comes marry. That's laughable at best.

Where they really ripped this song off, and I found this completely by accident... (The first time I heard it, I was like WTF!!!) is a song by a 60's band called "orange bicycle". Find and download their song "LA". There are two different versions of this song which are featured on their "Hyacinth Threads" compilation. The version on disc one is definitely the better version and is probably the one that stereolab ripped off from. I know you probably think I'm insane... But seriously when you hear it for yourself, you will drop your coffee mug, do a spit take, whatever it is you do.

Anyway just thought I'd pass that bit of info onto you...

Take care...
Actually, Ping Pong (which is one of my favorite songs ever...) is a rip-off (of sorts) of the 5th Dimension's "Up, Up and Away". It's pretty obvious - just listen to the opening horn riff of that song. Another song on here I'm really starting to like is L'Enfer Des Formes. It's just so cute and bouncy... of course, I looked up the lyrics and it's basically the same thing that Betty Frieden was saying in the Feminine Mystique. It's really funny how these guys & gals manage to pull that one off.

Great album though. Sure, a little repetitive, but so is Discreet Music, and we know how much Mark loves that one!

By the way, youtube "Stereolab origins", and there's like a 5 part series on where a bunch of their songs come from. It will either raise your opinion of this band significantly or make you think they were a bunch of rip-offs. It did the former for me.
Another back-loaded album, only not nearly as good as Transient. I find this kind of a strange anomaly in the Stereolab catalog. It sounds like they were having a bit of an off period in their songwriting, but just released it anyway. Maybe they didn't quite know how to work with their fancy new production yet. I dunno. A lot of these songs sound like each other. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that some of them sound straight off of Peng! It feels like a regression to me, like they had to get out the last vestiges of this simple "single keyboard note that follows the chord changes" songwriting style they started with before they could take a step forward with Emperor Tomato Ketchup. There's a few stunners here naturally (it's a Stereolab album after all, you've gotta expect at least a couple songs like "Ping Pong"), but overall I'm baffled by how much Stereolab fans seem to like this album. Kinda like how it blows my mind that anyone could possibly consider The Bends to be Radiohead's best album. 9/10 is way, way too high for this. I give it (6/10).
This is the one that hooked me after having seen them (straight) at Lollapalamefest in San Diego in 1994. A friend got me baked (not fried) and blasted this while out roommates were trying to sleep. Knocked my ass directly past my teakettle. It was that evening I first noticed that Transona Five is essentially ZZ Top's "La Grange", replacing "uh-HAW-HAW-HAW" with a succession of "la-la"s.

By the way, don't let your beagle eat from the compost bin. She woke me up at 4 am with three shit piles and two puke wads in the kitchen, living and dining rooms; including one pile on the couch and another which I can't identify as puke or shit. Yup. That bad. Made me immediately think "I'll write my two cents on Moe's Ashtmadiac Quintuplet!"

Fernie Canto
well, this one just pushes the NEU! drumbeat beyond the edge, which kind of harms the album overall. Yet we get marvellous tunes line "Wow and Flutter", "Ping Pong" and "Outer Accelerator". I just don't understand why they included the song "New Orthophony", yet removed the brilliant first part of the song! Well, who knows? Tim Gane just loves randomly throwing around bits and pieces of songs, so I just have to take it anyway. And "Fiery Yellow" is awesome just for how unexpected it is! But it's also great to see marimbas being given the value they deserve.

Add your thoughts?

Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On, Volume 2) - Duophonic 1995.
Rating = 9

Manj, this band really enjoys mining the same field over and over again, don't they? Same drumbeat, same little one-note up-and-down modulation, same chime-chime-chime guitar atop fuzzy organtrees. But it's such a great field!!!! I LOVE this damn field!!! They built it, and I will came!!! So this is another compilation of singles and whatnot, highlighted by a funny country/western version of "Tone Burst" from Transient. that must be heard to believed that it exists because who would expect Stereolab to do a country/western song? Granted, it's a hi-fi, nostalgic for the 50s spacetone C/W song, but that bass/drum shuffle is unmistakably of Southern United States origin. Elsecity, more songs with funny names like "'Animal Or Vegetable (A Wonderful Wooden Reason.)'" and "Lo Boob Oscillator" slamp up the yorndorn. You cannot and will not be disappointed in this compilation, or any earlier Stereolab material, if you have a place in your heart for aural beauty. The voices, the sounds = bliss in ear form. Sometimes they "rock," sometimes they "soothe," but they always bubble, fizz, shimmer, shine and glow with childlike wonder and Marxist doctrine.

Reader Comments (Greg Bougopoulos)
A brilliant collection this is. "French Disko" made onto John Peel's Festive 50 and I like it too. And I like most of the rest, and that's all I will say at this time because I'm lazy. An 8.
This record works surprisingly well at parties where there are girls. Try it late night when trying to work up a 'vibe'.

Fernie Canto
I always enjoyed this one. Even though I think the NEU! schtick got pretty excessive on Mars Audiac Quintet, for some reason it works on this one; perhaps because these singles were more adventurous, more daring and in-your-face, though nowhere as vicious as on the awesome Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements. So it's a very pretty balance between all-out noise attacks and charming beauty; this is PARTICULARLY true on Harmonium. I love that track so much! And Lo Boob Oscillator is even better, and somehow the switch between the two different parts of the song TOTALLY does it. The poppier ones, French Disko and Eloge d'Eros, are pure beauty, and the "country" version of Tone Burst is out of this world. By the way: the extremely long track Animal or Vegetable is supposed to be a very clear homage to Faust, borrowing from their song It's a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl (much like Mellotron was a homage to the Silver Apples and their song Ruby), and I think it's loads of fun (the subtitle "A Wonderful Wooden Reason" is taken directly from Faust's Meadow Meal -- I'm sorry to come across as pedantic, but I LOVE these trivia and I love to share them). I find it interesting how Mellotron, Harmonium and Farfisa form a nice trio of songs, clearly interrelated but still different from each other. Tempter is gorgeous, too -- great way to round off this record.

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* Emperor Tomato Ketchup - Elektra 1996. *
Rating = 10

The most diverse Stereolab release ever, jaunting the diddly-daddly through everything from trip-hop to new wave/punk rock to sixties bubblegum pop to basic Stereolab drone-and-pulse to lounge act grooviness and more - MORE!!!!! - all played with the same multilayered, multileveled gorgeous womanly vocals and instrumentation you've come to expectate from this band of people. Moog solos, fuzzy space noises shooting from speaker to speaker, clove cigarette art ballads, bubbling synth noises, floopin' bangcrang bass lines, beautiful string arrangements, jiggedy bounce drum tappers and tons, tons, tons of great vocal melodies to bounce about to - all brought to you by Toyota Bicycles!

That one song kinda sucks though. Well, it's okay, I guess. I just hate that one part.

Reader Comments (Greg Bougopoulos)
The band's most diverse collection, but as I've stated in my comments for 'Transient blah, blah, blah', not their best. Again, the album sort of dies towards the end with insignificant stuff, but it's still better than Magnetic Fields' '69 Love Songs' so I'll give it a low 8. What's with the people who praise that album? Such a dearth of high quality pop music today that some people will praise anything that is merely good. (Alan Hawkins)
The definitive Stereolab record, this one contains all the things that make this band so friggin' great - weird retro keyboard pop, funky upbeat numbers with lots of cool electronic noises - and heaps of creative, catchy and (as you said) unforgettable vocal interplay.

This one disappointed me a little at first - but after a few listens - it got me! "Sparkplug" is one of my faves, and the lovely "Slow fast hazel" features that lounge jazzy style that would dominate the next album. I'll give this album a 9. (Zach English)
Terrific album. I've always thought of this one as a bit like the Remain in Light of the nineties: funky and brainy with lots of layered melodies. The only other Stereolab I've heard is the stuff on Transient, and at that time they weren't really anything more than a second-rate My Bloody Valentine. I think the quantum leap here may also be due to Tortoise's John McEntire, who produced. And see them live! They might seem a bit wimpy on record, but I saw them live with Sonic Youth and they built up these mesmerizing drones and pulverizing bass lines.
Now this is stereolabs masterpiece, synths a-bubblin', guitars a-rockin, and best of all girls a-purrin'! Emperor tomato ketchup is one of the best albums I have ever heard, in fact I love all of the songs except for the first track which has a stupid hip-hop beat and is overly repetitive (sounds like a Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements out take to me)! overall a good purchase for any one and everyone!

Stereolab are very good. Much better than Belle and Sebastian, who happen to be , well, not bad.

So, what about a couple Todd Rundgren reviews, you lazy man ?
They should do courses to teach people not to be asshats. To decide which stream you go into, ask them whether they own this album. If they don't, send them to Asshat 101. If they don't like it, send them to Sing Sing.
I don't see this as being the band's best like a lot of people. It doesn't have the ambition or cohesion of a great album, and it feels kind of transitional, pitched halfway between their early drone-pop and the electronic lounge stuff they'd start exploring on Dots and Loops. But I feel stupid complaining about a good album not being great. This is a really good album. It trails off a little bit at the end with some inconsequential songs, but the first seven are exceptional. "Les Yper-Sound" is probably in my top five Stereolab songs. You can't not nod your head to that bassline. A solid (8/10).

Fernie Canto
Emperor Tomato Ketchup is probably the band's "ultimate" album, and deservedly so. The album just never stops being awesome; it never tires. "Metronomic Underground" is one of the coolest things they've ever done, and that crescendo just drives me wild -- and a very different thing coming after the previous album. This has never been my favourite Stereolab release, but it got under my skin. I almost know it by heart. I also like how Mary Hansen takes the lead vocals in the title track. They should have done it more often -- as much as Laetitia's voice is magnificent beyond words, Hansen had a lightness and a playfulness that's always great to hear.

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Dots And Loops - Elektra 1997.
Rating = 8

The mood of America has shifted from George "Good Times" Bush to William "Sex" Clinton's second term of office, and Stereolab has responded with an album of bachelor pad lounge jazz groove tunes. No more rocking fuzz headbanging lollipop music - this is mature Jackie Gleason music for young people who fancy themselves too good for rock and roll, the fools! Have they not heard the finest work of Thin Lizzy featuring Phil Lynott? What about The Sweet? Or just Sweet? Anyhow, the music itself is good. It's not lounge jazz like Steely Dan or something - it's just the kind of groovy low-key, low-energy (with the occasional trip-hop beat), dark sunglasses, guys with sideburns, girls with cigarettes, sitting on a couch in a smoky bar vibe that you'd expect to hear on a commercial geared towards young rich white people ("Parsec" actually did end up in a Volkswagen commercial, I'm pretty sure). Even more xylophone, brass and strings than before. Melodies are all minor key jazzy thangs - no happiness, just attitude. Played very well though, if you like this kind of music. Normally I don't, but I love Stereolab so much, it's very easy to let my prejudices go and just dig the vibes.

Not all my prejudices though. I still hate chinks.

Oh hell, did I write "chinks" there? I of course meant "Jar Jar Binks."

Wasn't that the name of that slanty eyed cocksucker on Shogun?

Reader Comments (Greg Bougopoulos)
Stereolab finally go bossanova, but they do such a great job at it, that I look forward to listening to this. "The Flower Called Nowhere" is a great title and a great song, "Miss modular" is a great single, and the funky 2nd half of "Contronatura" makes the 1st half so disappointing. This is my third favorite 'Lab release ('Space Age Bachelor Pad Music' is my it Mark!) and I'm going to give it another 8. And "Parsec" was in the VW Beetle commercial Mark. They also have some song in a Volvo commercial. I don't know which one, but I can tell Laetitia's frenchy-voice when I hear it. (Alan Hawkins)
My favourite Stereolab record, sure - maybe "Emporer..." had more stylistic diversity and energy, but it was never as beautiful as this. The socialist/political lyrics are gone, and the "Bachelor Pad" lounge jazz feel here PERFECTLY suits Laetitia's voice, the melodies are just so unbelievably georgeous, and still quite diverse! each song has it's own vibe, a blissful vibe that just makes you melt into your armchair every time you give this c.d. a spin.

I love every single song, that 18-minute suit during the second half never gets boring, lots of cool variations on the same melodic theme, and I have no reservations in saying that "prisoner of mars" is one of the most jaw-droppingly breathtaking songs ever written by any-one, damn, I love that woman's voice!

This is timeless, evocative music that has just gotta be heard, I give it a perfect 10, I feel sorry for any-one who does n't own this album. (Matt Terrebonne)
I love this album. It is one of my favorite Stereolab albums. Hell, every Stereolab album is my favorite. But this one is my favorite because of the process they used to make it, and that process's result. The album isn't the band actually playing the songs. Apparently, they recorded themselves playing the songs, then took the tightest measure or so for each part and looped it on the computer. Then added all the extra sounds and majorly messed with the whole thing on the computer forever. In an interview, Tim Gane said it was the longest, most tedious, most difficult, and most unnatural recording process they'd ever went through. But apparently that's how they've been doing most of their stuff since. You should check out TURN ON. It isn't a Sterelab album, but it's the three guys from Sterolab with a few other people doing some instrumental stuff that's pretty cool.
Oh yeah, stereolab can be funky as a mofo! As their album dots and loops prove they can be pretty and danceable! Latitia Sadier is singing like always and the music is really, really catchy. oh how I love stereolab, they are probably my favorite band of all time; they are beautiful and feminine, accesible and experimentle, weird but perfect!

10/10 (MooT BooXLe)
This is my favorite record in the whole wide world. And I am a music junkie. My record collection has the volume and variety of any good record store. But after everything I've ever heard - and ever loved - is over, Dots and Loops is still there, inspiring me and soothing me. And making me groove like a mofo! It was the first record I ever got by Stereolab, so I didn't have the excellent Emperor Tomato Ketchup to compare it to. Because that's a tough comparison. But pretty much everything I like about every genre of music from every era is present in some form on Dots and Loops. I've been thinking of making a 'Shrine to Dots and Loops' page. Maybe I will.
Man, this is an amazing album. "Brakhage" is my favorite Stereolab song. Everything about it is wonderful. Say, have you ever seen a Stan Brakhage film? He's this guy that paints on blank film stock and it makes all kinds of crazy patterns. It's pretty cool when you're just watching a couple of his short films, but I rented a DVD of his stuff and it gets mighty boring after twenty minutes or so. Then again, I've heard people say that about this album and they're completely wrong. "Diagonals" is a bit rote in my opinion, but everything else is groovy. I just feel so cool and chill when I listen to this stuff. People complain that the album itself is chilly, but I disagree. Laetitia's vocals are always so warm and pretty that they breathe humanity into everything Stereolab does. This album is way too good. I rate it only marginally under Transient. Another (10/10).

Fernie Canto
now THIS is the one I love to bits. They completely changed gears here, but managed to keep ALL the awesomeness, and even improve in it. Yes, it's all cool and loungey, but it's beautiful; the music always knows when to start and when to stop, and there's always something happening. "Rainbo Conversation" is my favourite Stereolab song ever, yet "Miss Modular", "A Flower Called Nowhere" and "Diagonals" aren't far behind. The songs that I consider weaker here ("Prisoner of Mars" and "Ticker-Tape of the Unconscious", which uses a sample from Gal Costa -- WHAT OTHER band uses samples from Gal Costa? I'd like to know!!) would be a prime highlight in any other Stereolab album. You know it's no mean feat when a band overshadows its own brilliant songs.

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Aluminum Tunes - Drag City 1998.
Rating = 9

Part three of the Switched On series, this two-hour double-CD set chronicles the band's b-sides, EPs, rarities, remixes and trips to New Guinea from 1994 to 1997, serving as notice to all b-boys and bop girls that Stereolab is one of the all-time greatest musical combos of any genre. Yes, it is very much the case that the constant "la la la" background vocals and oft-simplistic musical backdrop sometimes makes you feel like you're hearing the same song over and over again, but I defy you to complain that the song isn't a wonderful one. Unless you're one of the Cable brothers, of course, in which case you're going to bitch about every band that doesn't sound just like early Metallica, but aside from those fine readers, I can't imagine anybody complaining about this samba/pop/drone/electronica/vibe/groove/lounge/dance/rock/tropicalia/new wave/jazz/minimalist/riot grrl band. They're just too zap-dap-dappity cool! Like something you'd hear on the Jetsons, but without an ounce of pretentiousness (aside from the lyrics perhaps, but you can't understand them anyway - Sadier twists all the words around to fit into the rhythm of the song, so two three-syllable words end up sounding like one one-syllable word followed by a three-syllable word, completed with a two-syllable word, et peter cetera). They're not a bunch of talentless brats trying to be cute and ironic. They are an extremely gifted batch of songwriters, musicians, soundscapists and singers who deserve to go down in history as one of the most melodious musical combinations of people ever dwelled upon, shat upon or loved beyond all recognition.

And no, this compilation isn't anywhere NEAR as "bachelor paddy" as Dots And Loops, so don't worry about that, Geriatric Dildo Man!

Reader Comments (Alan Hawkins)
Yeah, there are some marvellous tunes on here, especially on the second disc, the first few songs there are breathtakingly sweet little pieces of cheesy pop that only this band could get away with. And what about "Iron Man" - a really cool, dark dance-like number that does n't sound like them at all! and the remix of "Metronomic underground" is a slow burning, dense sound collage, great stuff! Only a couple of songs bore me, most of this just rules, a 9 for sure.

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The Groop Played "Space Age Batchelor Pad Music" EP - Too Pure 1998.
Rating = 6

28 minutes long. Divided into an "easy listening" side and a 'new wave" side. The "easy listening" side has some gorgeous laze-about ballads as well as some irritating shitty pointless instrumental organ garbage, and the "new wave" side books it col' medina like the old Stereolab we love together. But it's no big whoop. I don't know what the heck that "reader comment" guy was talking about when he bitched and moaned that I didn't have this reviewed on my site. It's not incredibly interesting, and certainly doesn't offer any sounds you can't get elsewhere on a Stereolab release. I tell you, that is absolutely the last time that I will ever listen to anybody about anything. Everybody is always wrong and my instincts are always right. Remember that time I bought a condo in Shitsville? That wasn't my idea. Some guy in my head named Paul told me to buy it. Now I'm up to my ass in poop. And that's what I get. For trusting anybody. Especially Ronald Reagan.

Reader Comments (Alan Hawkins)
Maybe I should have emailed you a warning before you went and wasted your money on this one, just when I thought there was no such thing as a bad Stereolab release - I came across this dull, half-arsed piece of uneccessary shit. This mini-album was recorded back in 1993 and (rather tellingly) didn't see the light of day until '98 - quite what this c.d. has to do with "New Wave" or "Bachleor pad" styles of music is a mystery, it just sounds like a precursor to that repetitive, one chord, organ-driven pop slop that made "Mars Audiac Quintet" such a yawnfest, with a few wanky pieces of noise thrown in. Avoid it. A 3 out of 10.

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Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night - Elektra 1999.
Rating = 7

Jesus H. Fatherfrig, am I listening to fuckin Herb Alpert here? Or did Dave Brubeck suddenly burst into my house and set up residence over by my pornography cabinet? One second after I rant and rave about how melodious Stereolab is, they give us another exercise in minor-key exotica with horns, strings, vibes and some really REALLY corny melodies. This stuff doesn't even seem geared towards young hipsters - most of it sounds like dentist office music! Honestly, these guys have always flirted with e-z listening imagery and song structure, but they've never crossed the line this much before. I mean seriously - stuff like "Caleidoscopic Gaze" and "The Spiracles" sounds like it came straight from one of those boringass music/nature/serious segments on Sesame Street. Am I wrong here? If I'm wrong, just send me $500 to let me know

But it's not all bad. Come on now, this is Stereolab - how could it all be bad? "Fuses" and "Blips Drips and Strips" have incredibly complex, neat rhythm things going on, "Blue Milk" is a dazzling billion-minute demonstration of the wonders of minimalism, "Caleidoscopic Gaze" features an awesome ascending vocal thing near the end that was TOTALLY stolen from Yes' "Starship Trooper" and the songs really do have lots of things going on. The more you listen, the more you hear - "Op Hop Detonation" for just one example has some really bitchin' electronica stuff going on behind the singer's surprisingly dull vocal melody.

Actually maybe the main problem is that the disc is 76 minutes long, so the songs that bore me ("The Spiracles," "Puncture In The Radak Permutation," "Velvet Water" and a couple others) sort of overshadow the good ones (there are several; the first few and last few tunes are particularly exceptional). Still, no matter how Martin Dennyey the music can get at times, you can't beat that woman's voice.

Though you can certainly beat the woman herself. And SHOULD, fuckin' Socialist slit!!!!!!

Reader Comments (Alan Hawkins)
Another wonderful album by a band that just keeps getting better, there are a couple of songs that don't do much ("The Spiracles" sounds like The Carpenters!!! how corny were they trying to get??)- but most of this stuff is unbeatable.

Whereas Dots and loops had a heavenly, blissed-out feel - this album sounds drugged-up and strange, hyperactive jazz bursts combined with very doped-out, yet increasingly complex vocal arrangements (that weird-as-hell "Italian shoes" song for example) ensure that this album is not one you can simply relax to, it's just too odd!

I love it though, I agree that there are TONS of great ideas here that reveal themselves after repeated listens - this is a darker side to the bachelor pad sound that I have just as much fun listening to, a 9 out of 10.
Their most avant-garde album. Much better than its reputation suggests, and yet...I kinda get why it has its reputation. It's way too fucking long. Every song has ninety billion instruments on it so you have to listen to it over and over before you can even tell if it's good. The whole thing is so loungey that you feel like a seventy year old man for listening to it. But here's the thing: it's also really, really good. These are complex, creative, interesting songs! And consistent too! Maybe "Caleidoscopic Gaze" is overkill after the eleven-minute song preceding it, but it's mostly excellent all the way through. I'm tempted to give this a 9, and maybe the sheer whacked out ambition of the whole affair deserves it, but where Dots and Loops makes me feel cool, this music is just a little too fruity for me to completely warm up to. If that doesn't bother you, than consider this a 9, but with my biases it has to be a very high (8/10).

Fernie Canto
of all Stereolab albums, somehow this one always seemed to be the least inspirational one, and critics overall seem to be in agreement. Taking a full listen today, I think I know why: this album is way too obsessively focused on groove and experimentation, whereas their two previous ones (my personal favourite Stereolab records, incidentally) had OTHER things aside from groove and experimentation to offer: Emperor Tomato Ketchup had vitality, playfulness and off-the-wall yet catchy ideas, and Dots and Loops had those detailed textures and gorgeous melodies and instrumental interplay. This one is clearly more "interesting" than "enjoyable", though there are some incredible cuts here: Fuses is great, with its frenzied rhythm and atonal party of instruments, with that vibraphone figure that sounds like a deranged version of a British TV logo from the 70's -- I love it; The Free Design is amazing and intoxication, and it has one of the greatest musical jokes I've ever heard -- which is, of course, when the brasses play Dancing Queen in the end. THAT IS AWESOME. I also like Puncture in the Radax Permutation a whole lot, dunno why; I think I become very partial when Mary Hansen takes lead vocals. The problem, many times, is that the songs just don't seem to grow and evolve. Even when there are good ideas, they sound diluted, and the length of the album REALLY harms it. Also, what's up with Strobo Acceleration? Is this Mars Audiac Quintet all over again? Even the title is similar to Outer Accelerator! Other notes: I love the singing saw in Caleidoscopic Gaze, and I love the samba rhythms they employ here. One thing Stereolab doesn't do is stereotype (hey! Almost rhymed) the styles they borrow, so their brand of eurosamba sounds very natural and profound -- they really sink into the sound, just like David Byrne does and like Peter Gabriel couldn't ever hope to do. This is particularly awesome in Fuses. Overall, though, it's their weakest release.

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The First Of The Microbe Hunters - Elektra 2000.
Rating = 8

For some reason, this was positioned into the marketplace as an EP even though it's 40 minutes long. I have no comment about that. My comments involve the music, which I enjoy greatly. They have done a total 560-degree turn from that romantic erotica music that dominated their last two albums, returning to the diverse smooth synth-noise-driven unpredictable yet always prettily melodic feel of Emperor Tomato Ketchup. But what's up with "Household Names"? Am I a nutso or have they already recorded about 50 songs that sound exactly like it??? Oh wellz. You didn't hear me complaining when all their early uptempo tunes sounded similar. Or did you? How closely are you following my thought patterns anyway?

There are only seven songs on here (maybe that's why it's called an EP?) so it may not be the most essential Stereolab recording ever released, but it has some wonderful tunes on it and shouldn't be dismissed, even if it has finished all of its classwork. Hopefully, they will continue in this vein and leave that dentist's office music to Marilyn Manson.

On a related note, Joey Ramone died today. This makes me a lot sadder than it probably should. I love the Ramones so much. I only met the guy once or twice, but I've been a huge Ramones fan for 12 years. It feels like I lost a friend.

Reader Comments (Alan Hawkins)
Not quite the return to their previous pop sound that Mark seems to think it is, this is basically more of the same lounge jazz that dominated the previous two records, but with more energy and verve. A very sunny, boppy little record - except for "I feel the air (of another planet) which is a surprisingly dull "dots and loops" outtake. It's a little worrying to see they've made little, if any progress between albums, but who's complaining? the melodies are as catchy, georgeous and totally original as they've ever been, if you're a diehard fan then lap it up! I give it a very high 8.

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Sound-Dust - Elektra 2001.
Rating = 8

More of the same, but with one neat difference that I'd love to share with you some day.

Just in time for the New Millenium, Stereolab bring us more of le petit mort that we so enjoy -- but with a certain je ne sequa. A kind of, parlez vous, eh menage a trois, if you wilt. They SPARKLED A LITTLE FAIRY DUST ON THE FUCKER!

Sound-Dust is a perfect title for this CD (as would have been GIant Dangly Penis, or at least funny if not perfect), because it is all chockfull of tinkly jinglebells, dreamtime synth bubblings and a beautiful mysterious shimmering sprinkle of Fantasia-style wonder with a slight undercurrent of childlike fear of the unknown. Who's coming up to my window so late at night? Is it the eternal boy-man Peter Pan? Or that 40 year old pedophilic creep that dresses up like Peter Pan on his web site? Either way, there's a Tinklebell involved!

The worst moments on the record are the same sort of adult-oriented MOR (bear with me here - I don't actually know what MOR means) lounge music that the band loves a bit too much, but the overall feel/impression left on the listener is much different and much much more beautiful. Listening to it makes me feel like a child lost at Disneyland at night. Scared but in heaven. The most magical CD I've run across in quite some time.

Unless you count that new Slayer CD, which magically made my fiancee disappear last ngiht before magically getting thrown angrily across the room by Mark Prindle.

Let's all give a round of applause to the webmaster Dick Buttsmell -- give a wave, Dick! You're doing a great job!

Reader Comments (Dick Buttsmell)
Thanks Mark! *waves* (Alan Hawkins)
I did n't like this album at all when I first heard it, it all sounded too slow and WAY to retro and nostalgic - with none of the concise, energetic bounce of their previous stuff. But now that it's grown on me, i just ADORE this album - it really is beautiful beyond words, it's not as overtly lounge jazzy as the last couple - it relys more on a 60's style of pop music, a style that would sound corny in the hands of another band but sounds lovely here, the melodies are some of their finest yet - very dreamy and child-like, as you mentioned. Laetitia's voice is also sounding more emotional and less detached than it has in the past, her vocal delivery on "Baby Lulu" and "The black arts" really is stunning.

This album does sound deceptively simple to begin with, put most of these songs actually develop and change half way through - "Captain Easychord" begins as a piano-driven, country-tinged stomper and ends up sounding like 80's new wave pop! and that's another odd thing - pedal steel guitar on a stereolab record, who would of thought?

What else to say? oh yeah, I friggin' LOVE that bit towards the end of "Suggestion Diabolique" where the whole band locks into big, funky awesome groove, the rest of this album is pretty mellow in comparison - but it's still a georgous reminder as to why these guys are one of the greatest (and most criminally ignored) bands around, I'll give this album a 9. By the way, MOR stands for Middle Of(the)Road (as in mediocre)- I get the feeling Mark knows that already and was just being silly. (James Hippie)
I was surprised to see that you gave Stereolab such high marks, yet you seem to have nothing but utter contempt for their obvious influence, the venerable Velvet Underground. To me Stereolab (at least on Peng and Transient Random, Jetset and No Star) take the best elements of the Velvets and make them their own without sounding too derivative, reinventing "Sister Ray" on every song sans Lou Reed's salty lollypop stories and amphetamine-induced guitar mania (which I happen to enjoy, but whatever). And all of this is good. Very good. Or at least that's what it seems like right at this moment, but it may just be my meds kicking in and clouding my judgment. If I could play guitar like Sterling Morrison I would play this kind of simple and joyous music and probably be a much saner person, but I grew up listening to Double Live Gonzo and Toys In The Attic and my life and music will forever be tainted by the viscera-dripping fingers of Ted Nugent plucking out the bastardized blues of "Wango Tango." But I digress. . . .

Then something strange happened and Stereolab became a Combustible Edison cover band, and I lost interest in them because I'm extremely fickle and rigid in my musical tastes. And suddenly the Ozark Mountain Daredevils didn't look so gay after all. . . .
The dark album! I don't wanna overstate it, because at the end of the day Stereolab always sounds kind of bright and cheery, but I was pretty surprised at what a comparatively melancholy album this is. Very mellow, restrained and mature. Lots of twinkly instruments, like you mentioned, but still vaguely creepy. Pretty ambitious stuff too. Nowhere near as sonically dense as Cobra and Phases, but still very heavily orchestrated and arranged. I wish I liked it more than I do, unfortunately. There's definitely quality material here, but a lot of it is just...empty. Particularly the latter half (again). It ends up being so mellow, restrained, and mature that it goes in one ear and out the other. Still, they clearly put time and effort into these compositions (I'm not sure if I can say the same about their next two albums), and a lot of these songs make me smile (the slide guitar and the horns in "Captain Easychord" are adorable!), so I will give it a very high (6/10).

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ABC Music - Koch Records 2003.
Rating = 9

Stereolab has the best female vocals in the world. There is absolutely no ego in the voices at all. Not an ounce of it. They are surrendering their personalities for the sound - the beautiful sound of the band. From their whizbang bouncey fun early Neu! ripoffs through the modern-day mature bachelor pad lounge music, Monooratory(HA! DO YOU GET ME?)'s vocals have never screeched like Alanis MoriSHITte or twanged like SHITyl Crow or squawled pain into the brain like Janis SHITlin. No sir, Stereolab's Laetitia SHITier and Mary SHIT (who sadly passed away in a bicycle accident recently) aren't here to drunkenly bask in the irritance of their soul pipes: they're here to create tones as beauteous as those pissed out of the band's Vox organs, Farfisas and strummy things with the wood. I'm nearly tempted to say that no other band has ever had such beautiful singing on their records. And in a world without Boz Scaggs, this would surely be the case.

ABC Music is a double-CD collection of years and years worth of Stereolab BBC sessions, featuring alternate studio recordings of 32 terrific songs outlining their career from Switched On through Sound-Dust. WIth like a really long break between Emperor Tomato Ketchup and Sound-Dust The track selection is really interesting -- only 15 of these songs can be found on the band's "studio" albums proper! (And two of those are the same song...). Elsewhere, there's lots of stuff from the three Switched On compilations, plus numbers (pot joints) from the Lo-Fi EP, Ping Pong EP, Wow And Flutter EP, Cybele's Reviere EP, Miss Modular EP and Fluorescences EP. In retrospect I could have saved myself a lot of irritating HTML coding by simply putting the word "EPs" at the end of that list of titles.

This is certainly a near flawless collection of material that should be of interest to any old body, even though most of the renditions are awfully similar to the album versions, at least to my untainted tin ears (especially the one with four pounds of wax and an earplug stuck in it). But I'm gonna leave it at a 9 and not the coveted 10 for only one reason and two reasons alone (one): You can't buy just one Stereolab album. You need them all. And if you have them all, this one is, for the most part, extraneous. The 10 stays with Emperor Tomato Ketchup, thanks to a very poor decision I made seven years ago when I founded the site: each band can only get one 10. I hate this rule. But it's too late to go back now! So just assume that if I give something a 9, it really deserves a 10. I'm a bitch like that.

I'm also a bitch in that I'm constantly giving birth to puppies! Want a puppy?

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Instant 0 In The Universe EP - Elektra 2003
Rating = 8

Say, if you're new to the site, I should let you know that I'm the "funny" one! There are lots of record reviewers out there in the world today (Greg Kot, for example), but I'm the "funny" one! When you want a laugh, turn to me and I'll make you laugh with my clownish antics! Look at me! I'm tapdancing around the room with a nilly-nally on my head! Check this out - What do you get when you cross David Bowie with a pair of shoes? An entire closet full of different shoes that all STINK! See??? I'm the "Laughter King"! I'm not very good at providing insight or analysis though, so you're gonna have to turn to a REAL record critic for that. I'm the Clown Prince of Record Reviewing! You know Gallagher? I'm like him, but I smash albums instead of watermelons! I don't LITERALLY smash them, but then Gallagher didn't LITERALLY smash watermelons either. He was in fact a powerful hypnotist who convinced his audiences that they were being sprayed by exploding pieces of fruit when in fact he was really standing onstage alone, twirling a stopwatch back and forth through the air. And it's this very sense of humor that separates my wheat from everybody else's chaff. I'm like the wacky weatherman in a world full of boring music scholar newspeople. So if you're ever feeling down and the sarcastic, hateful reviews in Spin and Rolling Stone are making you even sadder, just remember you can always turn to for a little pick-me-up. Sometimes I even post funny pictures! Check this out:















HA! The sign CLEARLY says to stay on the path, yet there I am - not on the path at all!!! HAHAHAHA!!!!! Can you imagine Ralph Gleason doing that? Fat chance in Hell, Mr. Snowball!!!

So now that you understand the theory behind the site (the fact that I'm a hilarious comedian funnyman masquerading as a person who actually likes music), let's get to the new Stereolab EP.

Interesting thing about death in the music world - it naturally makes all of us look for REFERENCES in the surviving artists' next work. When Linda McCartney died, we all listened tearfully to Paul rocking against his sorrow on Run Devil Run. When Bon Scott died, we understood the mournful album cover and meaning of lyrics like "Forget the hearse 'cuz I'll never die" on Back In Black. When June Carter Cash died, we held our heads in sorrow while awaiting Johnny Cash's....oooooo.

On December 9th, 2002, Stereolab's Mary Hansen was killed in a bicycling accident at age 36. The suddenness of her death shocked the band members and fans worldwide, even motivating one fan to say to the BBC, "Oh my God. Time to keep the good memories in mind. Her backings were great, her guitar playing tremendous, and she was so cool. Rest in peace honey." Many less stupid human beings were saddened by the death as well. As such, this EP - the first music recorded since her passing - will likely peak the interest of all fans looking for a tribute. Personally, I can't tell whether there is one or not. Certainly, the back of the text reads, "Mary, thinking about you," which pretty much says it all in a way that a song or songs isn't going to improve upon. But still, something about the song "...Sudden Stars" seems to be a bit tribute-ish. I can't make out the words, but part of it almost sounds like, "Thank you, Mary, for something something something." It might be in French though, so take my words with a grain of alcohol. Also, the CD title itself -- I can't make out by the chosen font whether it's called Instant O in the Universe or Instant 0 In The Universe. If it's a zero, that might be a reference to Mary's passing as well. If it's an "O" though, it's about an orgasm, which has very little reference to the bicycle accident at all.

And that's what the new Stereolab EP sounds like!

No hang on, I forgot to listen to it. Ah! Here we go. Well, it definitely seems less "bachelor paddy" and "EZ Listeningy" than the last few albums. More peppy and bouncy, more along the Emperor Tomato Ketchup lines. Some fucking great uptempo moments (the intro to "Jaunty Monty And The Bubbles Of Silence" is bliss distilled into bounciness and saved on cassette tape for lovers to enjoy together) merge with several just really WEIRD chord sequences -- all presented with multiple fuzzed-out gorgeous synth and organ tones (from yesteryear), brilliantly bubbly bass playing and light lead guitar riffs that, if removed from the heavenly sugar tone surroundings, would actually tend towards blues-rock strangely enough.

So yes, this release is more melodiously electronics-focused and less EZ sleepy focused than the last few, with the beats faster and a bit more danceable. But one thing I really notice this time around is that almost all of the songs consist of two or more completely different parts spliced together with no apparent regard for whether they actually fit together at all. In fact, the disc feels more like ten short simple songs than five full-length, well-developed songs. For just one of several examples, the bent weirdo uptempo two minutes that begin "Good Is Me" have absolutely NOTHING in common with the generic dull slower part that it suddenly segues (pronounced "segg-ways") into for no reason at all. It just sounds like two completely different songs glued together as one because they couldn't figure out how to develop each segment into a full song. And this is what the whole disc sounds like. Luckily, most of the parts are intelligent and pleasing to the eary canal!

So does "banal" really rhyme with "canal"? I've always rhymed it with "anal," and now I feel awfully dumb. One shouldn't make it all the way to age thirty thinking that "banal" rhymes with "anal."

The short line review bottom: The new Stereolab is sorely lacking in counter-backup vocals by Mary Hansen. They really blew it by not having her sing backup on it.

Reader Comments (Alan Hawkins)
After what the band have been through the last year or so, I was happy just to hear ANY new product from these guys, so when I first heard this e.p. I was pretty excited. Listening to it now though, especially in light of the wonderful "Margerine Eclipse" - these 5 songs do sound a bit too whimsical and light weight for their own good, it just all sounds a bit empty. It's also very sad to hear Laetitia singing by herself again, after striking up such a great vocal chemistry with Mary over the past few years. These guys certainly won't be the same without her, I'll probably give this e.p. a 7.

Add your thoughts?

Margerine Eclipse - Elektra 2004
Rating = 7

To be fair, if part of me died in a bicycle accident, I probably wouldn't put out the best album of my career either, so it's not like I'm calling them assholes and pieces of shit. They're human beings first, and musicians second. As human beings, they are probably experiencing a tremendous amount of pain and loss. But as musicians, I don't know what they're feeling. Something ugly?

Stereolab began their career as a Neu! tribute band basically, playing happy simple repetitive major chord songs on old-timey '60s organs of fuzz and goodness. Then as they grew, they gravitated towards minor-key bachelor pad hipster music played all bubbly and lounge coooollly. With An Eclipse Wherein A Package Of Margerine Drifts Between The Earth And The Sun, they appear to be attempting a return to their old-timey bright shiney old-timey loud high-pitched keyboard days, YET their songwriting remains minor-key bachelor pad. The result is, for this listener, disappointing and somewhat irritating. Who needs bright shiny tones when the melodies are nearly non-existent in their detachedness? This is where you need bubbly vibes and dark collections of minor-key exotica with horns, strings and vibes -- NOT big ol' orange fuzzy whatever-the-hell-these-keyboards-are-called. It doesn't work!

That was the negative portion of the review. Herein begins the positive portion. It SUCKS!!! The CD began its life inside a human RECTUM!

That was crazy. American crazy. The reality is that the band DOES in fact play nice note sequences (on both organ and guitar) in between the basic, overused chord sequences heard before in hundreds of Stereolab songs. But you have to sit right in front of the speakers to notice. This is also the only way to notice the terrific stereo separation on this disc, wherein the right and left speakers are full of completely different instruments and drum sounds. It's like you have two ears! The arrangements are terrible though, just like on the last EP. The songs just abruptly change into something completely different all of a sudden for no reason, almost as if they're just piling a bunch of small songs on top of each other until they reach the acceptable length for a song. And that's my positive commentary.

GAH! That wasn't positive! Let me try today. Half of these songs are very well-composed. Tracks 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12. The others range from "some good parts, some bad parts" to COMPLETELY unnecessary retreads of songs the band has already recorded ("Need To Be" and "Hillbilly Motobike" might as well be called "NO Need To Be" and "Hillbilly Stereolab Song We've Already Heard Fifty Times"!). I think the woman is singing backup for herself now. These high-pitched tones will irritate your pre-existing headache as they did mine. Don't you understand? If you're going to use happy instruments, you have to play happy songs!!!! Or at least ENERGETIC ones. These are relaxed cigarette-smoking French anthems played on little kids' instruments instead of on adult instruments made out of nudity and fancy expensive furniture. Have I ever been so disappointed by a Stereolab album? That is the question for the Sages of the Mountain Land.

Also, the rich, powerful people in the world will always have control over you, so you'd might as well give up having any personality at all. Nobody really cares about your bullshit angst anyway. Just shut the hell up and be glad you don't have cancer.

Unless you have cancer, in which case I'm really, really sorry. Try to hang in there and find happiness somewhere, if that's at all possible.

And all you people who DON'T have cancer, fuck you for your whining bullshit! This guy has CANCER!!! What are you bitching about? Because you're stupid and girls won't go out with you? Then quit being a dumbass and watching Lord Of The Rings for fuck's sake! If you want somebody who will love you for who you are, stop being such an unpleasant, boring, nerdy asshole!

Unless you have cancer, in which case I'm sorry about that.

Stereolab has about a million albums and most of them are better than this one. It's good, but when you're talking about a band as amazing as Stereolab, "good" isn't very good at all. Start your collection elsewhere.

Reader Comments (Alan Hawkins)
I could n't disagree with you more on this one, I think this is the best record they've done since "Dots and Loops" - infact some of these songs (such as the blissful, disjointed lounge jazz of "man with 100 cells") actually rival that record as some of the most beautiful music they've ever recorded. It's all a matter of personal taste though, is n't it? I prefer their more recent jazzy excursions than their earlier shoegazer, indie rock sound.

One thing I do agree on though - and it is a worrying sign - is that there are no surprises on this record, they are blatantly rehashing everything they've done previously, sometimes it's bleeding obvious ("Hillbilly Motobike" sounds like Stereolab circa 1994 - what's the point??) but thankfully most of these songs are well written enough to have a reason to exist, and yeah, that includes "Need to be" - how can you not be won over by that lovely, wistful melody? it's a fine tune!

Infact, what really saves this record is the upbeat funkiness of it all, there's a catchy beat running through almost every song, and the melodies are surprisingly bright and cheerful, as opposed to the mournful, downbeat atmosphere of "Sound-dust".

Also, I find it really strange that you've started complaining about stereolab's technique of changing songs half way through, when it's been a lovable trademark of theirs for years now! they were doing it as far back as "Mars Audiac..." , I think the chopped-up arrangements add a nice touch, keeps things unpredictable.

Anyway, I give the album (you guessed it) a 9 out of 10, these guys might be stuck in a creative rut right now, but it's a bloody beautiful rut to be stuck in.
with nothing else to do i read reviews of some of my favourite things, stereolab included obviously. sitting i work waiting for it to get busy its quite comforting to share praises. one thing though, almost everyone so far has had problems with the lyrics especially the fact that s lab decided to write + sing about what they (and many others) feel are some of the basic fuckups of our (us wealthy westerne'rs) world and promote ideas of fairness and balance. ........ Flip it I'm not expressing myself at all well but basically i think their lyrics, sentiment, phrasing etc. are fan diddly tastic. People who see them as naive, awkward, or just plain wrong are just plain wrong. ...... not that i'd know........

anyway point is stereolab are great words and music both, they "failed and suc- cee- ded ded dah ded deded dah ded deded dah ded Ded. (MooT BooXLe)
Margerine Eclipse? Yes, I must agree with you, Mr. Hawkins, that this is one of their best since Dots and Loops. And I do love that record. OK, so they have a sort of gimmick involved in this record that made its first appearance on Instant 0 (yep, it's a zero). They call it Dual-Mono, and that's a tip of the hat to those early stereophonic records like Enoch Light's (insert stupid title here), Persuasive Percussion, So-And-So at the Crappy Lowrey Organ, et al. Basically, it's a way of recording and mixing in which nothing ends up in the center. Nothing. If it sounds like it's anywhere other than all the way left or all the way right it's a phasing illusion. Personally, I love it. Yes, it's kinda gimmicky, but at this stage in Stereolab's career, after the sad loss of Mary Hansen, they kinda needed it.

The songs are strong, and, while there's not a lot of new ground covered musically here, they certainly do a marvellous job of making it interesting. Like the robotic funk of "Margerine Melodie". Super. Too bad "Margerine Rock" sucks so bad. It starts out great, but then the vocals come in with that bland, ricecake melody and those pathetic lyrics. I'd love to hear an instrumental-only version of this track. Lyrically, there is some expansive stuff here, such as the lovely "Man With 100 Cells". The soundtrack of my life. Man, I'm a diehard fan. I couldn't write an unbiased opinion about Stereolab if I tried. But Transient Random Noise Bursts..., most of Mars Audiac Quintet, and Space Age Batchelor Pad Music suck horribly. Stereolab has made some real turds over the years. But they have redeemed all of that with pretty much every album since Emperor Tomato Ketchup. I recommend this record. I'll give it a solid 8.
Man, they took Mary Hansen's death pretty hard, huh? The band just sounds downright listless here, with their most unfocused batch of songs ever. It's the first one I can honestly say I don't like for the most part. I think your comment about how it sounds like they piled a bunch of little bits until they reached acceptable song length is dead on. They've done songs with two or more parts plenty of times before, but it always felt natural, like it was the only logical way the songs could have played out. Here it feels awkward and more than a little bit arbitrary. You can practically see the stitching. Very little stands out, which is all the more shocking considering how many different styles are explored. Sound-Dust is mostly sad, yet it makes me feel happy. This album is mostly happy, yet it makes me feel sad. A disappointed (5/10).

Fernie Canto
I possibly like this one way more than I should... Even though these songs aren't as adventurous as they could have been, nor as beautiful as they could have been, they combine both qualities well enough to be enjoyable. The album is pleasant overall, without many particular stand-out tracks -- I'd name Vonal Déclosion, Margerine Rock (yes, it's so mindless that I love it), The Man With 100 Cells, Feel and Triple and the disco section of Dear Marge, which was actually cut straight off from Mass Riff -- but without any particular weak links. Mary Hansen's absence is undoubtly sad, though, and I can't help but feel a little bittersweet when I listen to this album. I guess that's the intention? Well, but I have to say that if I ever got to deserve an eulogy as gorgeous and touching as Feel and Triple, I'll know that my time on Earth was well spent. Absurdly beautiful song.

Add your thoughts?

Fab Four Suture - Too Pure/Beggars Banquet 2006
Rating = 8


Thank you for registering for the Mark Prindle University Record Reviewing Correspondence Course. We hope you will enjoy learning everything there is about writing a record review from our top-selling professor, underground mini-micro-semi-pseudo-celebrity Mark Prindle of

Lesson One: "Don't Bore Us; Get To The Chorus" - Get to the point. Nobody wants to sit through paragraph after paragraph of critical insight before getting to the poop joke.

Lesson Two: "Don't Eat Us; Get To The Fetus" - Feel free to use some song titles to make general points about the album, but don't simply describe every song on the album. People who already own it know what every song sounds like; people who don't own it don't care what every song sounds like. Instead, try to describe the overall tone of the album. How does it differ from the artists' previous releases? Is it a predominantly fast album? Moody? Dancey? What profane words rhyme with its title so you can be hilarious?

Lesson Three: "Don't Kill Us: Hang Out With Bruce Willis" - If you're drunk, be sure and explicitly alert the reader to this fact, over and over again. You might think that your inebriated state is obvious by the way your words are all misspelled and you keep ignoring the record to, in all caps, ask murderers and rapists to stop hurting everybody, but you're wrong.

Lesson Four: "Don't Tell Us What To Do: Go Cook Us Some Brunswick Stew" - When preparing to write a review, take notes about every song on the record and rate each one with a grade of "1" (loved it), "-" ('sokay) or "0" (sucks nutballs). Adding the total number of 1's, -'s and 0's and dividing by the number of songs on the album will give you the number grade for the album. However, if a terrible song takes up 95% of the album, and the last few minutes are split into 400 really great 3-second songs, resist the urge to give the album a 9, even though the equation told you to. Also, never EVER grade a song "3/4" or "1/4." People like songs in halves, not quarters. To disobey this rule is to crumble to ashes the very society on which our fabric is based.

Lesson Five: "Don't Call On Me; When You're Feeling Footloose and Fancy Free" - Music fans love plays-on-word and anecdotes about your dog. Use them constantly.

Lesson Six: "Don't Fuck My Wife; Mark Prindle is Fucking My Wife" - If you get to the end of your review and realize that it doesn't contain any actual insight into the artist or work under review, put a bunch of obscene riddles and knock-knock jokes at the end. Greil Marcus has based his entire career on this subtle trick, and people still read his books like water.

Lesson Six: "Donut" - If you can find the lyrics online somewhere, talk about them in your review. Are they witty? Insightful? Lame? Use specific examples. If you can't find them anywhere, fuck it.

There you have it! Everything you need to know to write a top-selling record review. Now it's time for your final exam.


Essay: Incorporating all of the lessons you've learned this semester, write a record review of Stereolab's Fab Four Suture CD, based on your own experience with the record. If you haven't heard the record, base your review on the sample notes provided below.

I. Synopsis: Jimmy bought Fab Four Suture after being told that it was comprised of six two-sided singles released on two dates in 2005 and 2006. When he put the disc in the CD player, he heard horns, guitars, warm female vocals and many organs. As a long-time fan of the band, he noted that the overall tone is much less 'bachelor pad easy listening romantic exotica' than their last several albums, and more along the lines of Emperor Tomato Ketchup-era Farfisa pop incorporating other international music influences -- but with greater trumpet presence than any previous Stereolab record, as far as he could remember. As the CD progressed, Jimmy soon began noticing a number of interesting and unfamiliar chord changes. He also noted with slight chagrin that several of the songs cruise along wonderfully for a few minutes before jarringly switching to a completely different beat and melody that doesn't go with the original riff at all. That didn't bother him that much though, as he quite enjoyed the overwhelming wall of sound created by all the different organs, clean-toned guitars, horns and multiple voices filling out each track. He was also pleasantly surprised by the way that the band clearly had spent a lot of time developing new, strange and unnatural chord changes that he had never heard before. These chord changes are not simply played as full-band chord changes, however. Rather, as a bass or organ alone marks the changes, all the other instruments play tiny little riffs in and around them, creating a musical mixed fruit tropical drink of strange tongue but warm presentation. Jimmy then pooped into his hand and put the log under his nose to wear as a mustache.

II. Song Ratings: 1-111--1111-

III. Individual song notes:

01 Kyberneticka Babicka Pt. 1 - Happy "AAAAH!" atop the old keyboard, then bubbly organ. Bright FARFISA cheer! and MOOG, I think! Just happy bouncy "AAAAAH!" and "LA!LA!LA!" Bouncy, lopey-dopey-happy! NO WORDS. "BAHBAHBAH" comes in near end, w/ arpeggio guitar. really nice chords & changes! repetitive but so warm!

02 Interlock - groovy funky song w/ muted trumpets, cool bass line, sexy chanteuse singin', guitar rock jazz chords, Funk-JAZZ-BUBBLETONES! Good! Then goes non-funky for minor-key but w/ doubled vox that isn't exhilerating. Unfortunate because the funky part rules. The non-funky part is just ugly, really.

03 Eye Of The Volcano - Muted trumpet again (?) (or is it an organ?) Interesting bass vs. echoey synths chords. Interesting changes! Dark, odd chord changes. Doorsy chord changes. Turns into bubblegum at end. Good 4/4 beat. Parts sound very Brazilian, Os Mutantes... that kinda thing. Kinda disjointed changes, but the main themes are neat, unexpected chord changes. Light-toned electric guitar.

04 Plastic Mile - (bump-bump-BUHDUH beat. Horns. Then changes to gentler part w/ horns, organ)-->Starts off w/ high-pitched organ chords and rump-tump-tumpa bass/drums. high vox. then changes to more gentle 4/4 w/ more interesting chord changes. Pretty, but also odd.

05 "Get A Shot Of The Refrigerator" - Uptempo! Bouncy! Fun! BASS thing --> DooDoo^Doo->vDoo (x etc) organs, guitars, etc. Then changes to slower bit w/ heavy bass line, wiggly guitar arpeggios (chorused). Then horn... And back to uptempo part! catchy uptempo part - strange chord changes Again! keyboard lines + guitar lines on top.

06 Visionary Road Maps - brooding garage rock bass line w/ dumb "wahwahwah" organ tapping. Guitar arpeggios...some real dumb fuzzy, weh-weh duck-noise keyboard tones->kinda detracts from "brooding" tone! okay though. Last minute switches to something else entirely! <-- not great either... oh well! it's over soon enough

07 Vodiak - Uptempo. bass goes up and Down -> organ goes around it, guitar arpeggiates. Not too hooky. Horns eventually come in. different, just not too hooky.

08 Whisper Pitch - Fast bass playing - nice trumpet. somber. guitar arpeggios. Melancholy, good. Love the bass lines! Way it's played. a bit sad, with everything doing stuff. Then slows way down, stays sad for end.

09 Excursions Into "oh, a-oh" - More strange chord changes! Good beat! Nice percolating bass, horn, bup-bup-bup percussive instrument. like a SAMBA! Crazy SAMBA Stereolab action. Good, odd tune! Then an odd drum-bubble type sound playing a melody. Main riff goes sorta upwards & around. Neat! Four chord FuzzDown At End. Cool! Great long old school Stereolab outro!

10 I Was A Sunny Rainphase - Minor-key circusy tone organ. FARFISA too - electronic blips, blups. Voice & one organ sing same notes, guitar plays chords. Crazy noise blurbs keep blurping out of any key. All kindsa weirdaass organ tones! Then sudden shift into Horn-accentuated slow boassanova/samba tappity tap tap w/ blurbles, tinkles, bwoops, bubbly wah-wahs, then back! Such ODD songwriting! MUSICBOX-sounding tones playing minor keys - A ton of electronic shit going on! Interesting! Quirky! Minor-key, kinda standoffish tone, but god so much crap in there!

11 Widow Weirdo - Reverbed tap percussion, horn, overdistorted drums, screwball chord sequence. midtempo, kinda down in tone. Changes into uptempo off-key atonal weirdo bass/guitar thing w/ soft reverbed tones, brightass tones, more percolating bass, strange chordchanges. Jeez - odd! Some ugly parts, but interesting ugly!

12 Kyberneticka Babicka Pt. 2 - reprise of #1

IV. Examples of Possible Hilarity:

(if they've gained weight) Stereolab? More like StereoFLAB, if you ask me!!!

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Fab Four Suture!
Fab Four Suture who?
Fab Four Suture self, but my names Stu Sutcliffe and I'm sticking with my leather jacket!

What's the difference between Stereolab and Mark Prindle?
Stereolab has four members; Mark Prindle just has one really big one!

Inclusion of the joke "Why did Mary Hansen cross the road?" will result in an immediate F.

V. When you complete your essay, please click on the link below and it will place your paper on the teacher's desk for grading.

Have a good summer, and we'll see you next fall for MARK PRINDLE UNIVERSITY - GIVING MARK PRINDLE A BJ CORRESPONDENCE COURSE!

Reader Comments
you've really outdone yourself with this one
When I heard that Stereolab had a new record on store shelves, I really did not know whether to be excited or apprehensive. Stereolab is my favourite group and I wondered if they would be able to top the excellent previous record Margerine Eclipse. Whether or not they did is not a valid question, however. What's important is that somehow, Stereolab has found another way to do what they do, sound exactly like themselves, and yet sound completely new. I don't know how they manage to stay relevant. Perhaps it's because they couldn't care less about current trends.

As an album, Fab Four Suture is not 100% cohesive. As a collection of singles, it stands with their finest material. Anyway, It sounds like Stereolab are making "band" music again. By that, I mean that they haven't pulled together 40,000 musicians from every planet in our solar system to play on it, only to chop it all up beyond recognition in the studio later. This time around, I can envision the 2 keyboardists, bass, guitar, drums, trumpet, french horn, trombone, and vocalist actually playing these tunes in the studio. Of course, they couldn't just do a regular bunch of songs. There are some crazy studio effects where it matters. Like on the excellent "Excursions Into 'Oh, A-Oh'". The backwards bit in the middle followed by the JAMMING STEREOLAB JAM OF YESTERYEAR FARFISA JAM has got to be one of their finest moments.

Looking forward to what's next!

OK, Overall, I give this record a solid 7.

Add your thoughts?

Chemical Chords - Duophonic/4AD 2008
Rating = 8

Pitchfork Media, a tiny start-up record review site just starting to get its wings, awarded this CD an 8.1. With all due respect, I must vehemently disagree with that extra .1.

Pitchfork Media can rave about the Marshall Tucker Band and Rick Derringer all they want (and GOD do they - endlessly!), but if they honestly hear an extra .1 worth of quality in this blatantly "8" release, maybe they should just leave the new music to the experts. Because sure, I can sort of imagine hearing Chemical Chords as an 8.1 if, like the editors of Pitchfork Media, I'd spent my entire life listening to Humble Pie, Foghat and all those other '70s boogie rock bands they gush over. But we're not living in 1978 anymore. Their constant 'Disco Sucks' editorials are growing increasingly anachronistic, and if I have to read one more news update about Mom's Apple Pie, I swear I'm gonna zip my pants. Hey Pitchfork, there's a lot of great new music out here. Ever hear of Guitar Wolf Mother Eyes Parade? Bonnie "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince" Billy? Bettie Serveert? Of course not, because you're too busy writing another puff piece about West, Bruce and Laing. So take this open message to the bank and take out a loan: Chemical Chords is an 8, and only an 8. That extra .1 stands for ".1gnorance".

Stereolab has issued a new release, and it's a much peppier affair than you might expect. Why, I'll be good and fucking goddamned if a full half of the 14 songs don't fall into the "uptempo, at least for Stereolab" category! Furthermore, they pile on sundry different organ tones galore (Farfisa and Vox are probably two of them. Wurlitzer, Casio, who knows.), and the bass once again sounds like it's literally percolating for you. Some of the songs are performed in happy major keys, others in more distressed or rockin' minor keys. Most of the melodies are easier to latch onto than those of the off-kilter Fab Four Suture, but odd moments definitely pop up here and there -- including a few instances where the melodies seem to be playing against the beat rather than with them.

The new Stereolab album, bravely entitled Chemical Chords, features lots of 'DUMP-DUMP-DUMP' rhythmic accents. Blame the drums, the keyboards - hell, blame Michael "Mark Spitz" Phelps for all I give a care, but for some reason lots of these songs feel all bouncy and 'DUMP-DUMP-DUMP'-y like The Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends." Piled atop of these DUMP-DUMP-DUMP rhythms, one encounters oodles of different organs, guitars, horns and violins playing little note riffs that intertwine around a particular chord sequence. So, for example, where The Vines would play four bar chords on their boring shitty guitars, Stereolab might approach the same four chords with (a) a three-note keyboard riff, (b) a simple repetitive guitar lick, (c) a bass guitar playing the root notes, (d) an organ or xylophone playing a five-note up-and-down melody, (e) a harpsichord playing two notes over and over, and (f) either a cheesy orchestrated violin wash or tooty brass accompaniment adding a bit of jazzy class or sleazy schmaltz to the production. All of these little note motifs are then transposed across each of the four chosen chords to create a big ol' delightful batch of interplay-heavy lounge music and French pop. And voila! You've cooked me dinner.

Stylistically, Chemical Chords sounds like a combination of early and late Stereolab, but with fewer harmony vocals, more horns, and occasional interjections of bizarrely unfashionable Love Boat-style string flourishes. The band's musical inspiration isn't waning a bit in their long-toothed elderlyism, and they tackle with gusto everything from warm happy pop ("Three Women," "Daisy Click Clack," "Valley Hi") and bachelor pad lounge (title track, "Self Portrait with 'Electric Brain'") to dark fuzzed-out fuzz-rock ("One Finger Symphony," "Pop Molecule"), rhythmic quirkiness (military marching "Nous Vous Demandons Pardon," polyrhythmic "Fractal Dream Of A Thing") and even Left Banke-style harpsichord garage rock ("Cellulose Sunshine"). A couple of tracks have dance beats too, but come on I'm not gonna name every song on the album. (I left out four)

The beautiful interweaving vocals of Mary Hansen are sorely missed, but I guess they feel it'd be disrespectful to replace her. If it were up to Pitchfork Media, they'd probably replace her with Joe Walsh, who they're always raving about! Either that or Edgar Winter, who you'd swear was giving the whole staff a blow job for all the praise they heap on him. Christ, Pitchfork Media -- it's one thing to appreciate the works of a past era, but how many 'exclusive' interviews with Jim "Dandy" Mangrum do we need?!

Look, here's my impression of Pitchfork Media: "The long-time-coming sophomore album by Mother's Finest comes across like a sweeping summation of the history of 20th century American white-boy music, from the sounds of Appalachia or the Grand Ole Opry to MGM movie musicals and K Records do-it-yourself twee. Another manifestation of the way Georgia has transformed the sounds of Jamaica to its own ends-- from 2-Tone to jungle to dubstep-- the Finest's Another Mother Further offers high-energy anger and ferocity, as opposed to outright bleakness, as they streamline their sound, shaving away the distortion and letting most of the impact come from the rhythm itself." See? They're just a bunch of illiterate white trash suck!

Reader Comments
Best review ever. I love you to pieces, Mark. Just let me know when and where I can suck your cock.
This has to be their all-time low. There's just nothing to it. Their sound has become so light it's practically transparent. They've stopped randomly throwing little bits of song together, but so what? At least on Margerine Eclipse if a song sucked you could count on it to change into a completely different song (granted, one that probably also sucked) in a minute or so. Here the songs just plod along monotonously for three boring minutes apiece. The sound is a lot more stripped-down, which initially seems refreshing until you realize that it results in a depressing lack of personality. But: at least on this album there are some songs that I can identify as being better than the others, as opposed to Margerine Eclipse where everything is the same shade of mediocre. Those would be: "One Finger Symphony," "Valley Hi!," and "Silver Sands." The rest of it is Still, at the end of the day, it's not really THAT much worse than Margerine Eclipse, so I will make do with another (5/10).

Fernie Canto
I'll just say that Chemical Chords is awesome, and it's the perfect album for when I'm in a good mood. "Valley Hi!" is particularly beautiful.

Add your thoughts?

Not Music - Duophonic 2010
Rating = 8

When Chemical Chords came out two years ago, I thought to myself, "How did Stereolab switch from the off-the-bird weirdness of Fab Four Suture to this mainlaced easy-go-round in a mere two years?" Now the answer is clear: they didn't.

Apparently, at the same time they were recording the lovely, familiar strains of Chemical Chords, Stereolab was also involved in a secret government project to record the least natural chord progressions of all time. After the government was overthrown by Kenyan socialist Barack HUSSEIN Obama, the band decided "screw it" and just put 'em out as an album.

I wouldn't go so far as to declare these songs "Not Music," but they're certainly not traditional music. In attempting to compose songs that have not yet been written, the band has conjured up some of the most absurdly incorrect chord changes since that time a guy put a guitar on his dog. And sure it was hilarious, but those songs the dog wrote were awful. Some might feel the same about Not Music. In fax, nearly every song on here contains at least one passage that makes me go, "Come on, you're just doing that to be an asshole!" Whether this sort of obstinate anti-melodicism appeals to your novelty-seeking mind or annoys your hook-seeking soul is a matter for the Gods to decide.

Each song has its own personality - or in some cases, multiple personalities. The 'Lab twist and twirl not only their usual bachelor pad exotica and French pop, but also new wave, gamelan, Motown, disco, rock'n'roll, Krautrock and more! You may not agree with every decision they make - particularly since about half of them sound completely random - but listen between the WTFs and you'll hear a lot of great music. The keyboards and synths are yet again piled up to the ceiling, embellished with occasional guitar arpeggios, lonely brass toots, oft-bizarre percussion (is that somebody squeezing a parakeet in "So Is Cardboard Clouds"?) and beautiful backup vocals. Yes, background vocals! Maybe they had them on the last album too, I can't remember. But I swear, on double-tracked ditties like "Laserblast," Delugeoisie," "Supah Jaianto" and "Everybody's Weird Except Me," it's as if Mary Hansen never died! Or at very least she came back as a melodic zombie.

If I had Chemical Chords with me, I'd compare its "One Finger Symphony," "Pop Molecule (Molecular Pop 1)," "Neon Beanbag" and "Silver Sands" to this record's "Two Finger Symphony," "Pop Molecules (Molecular Pop 2)," "Neon Beanbag (Atlas Sound Remix)" and "Silver Sands (Emperor Machine Mix)." I don't though, so let me just say that "Pop Molecules" is the only track here that sounds like early Stereolab (a basic but ear-pleasing fuzzed-out instrumental), "Neon Beanbag" has been converted into a hypnotic tap dance of xylophone, boobly drone and feedback, and "Silver Sands (Emperor Machine Mix)" is Stereolab's own "Carouselambra" - which is to say it starts off as a mean driving killer, then gets slow and boring, and finally turns into a lame-o disco pile of dung. What a waste of an awesome first section! Granted, it sounds like Kraftwerk, but maybe that's what I meant by "awesome."

In conclusion, if you enjoyed the screwy Stereolab of Fab Four Suture, then Not Music has a built-in audience in your person. If not, stay away! Stay away and lock your doors! Grab some garlic! Hold up a cross! IT'S A VAMPIRE!

That's given me a delightful idea. Let's all make up some vampire jokes together! I'll start:

Why did the vampire cross the road?
To get to the other slide!

What do a vampire and a Union boss have in common?
They both love to shout "Strike!"

How many vampires does it take to change a light bulb?
Two! One to take the old bulb out, and another to shout, "You're outta there!"

Good old vampires, and the way they officiate major league baseball games.

Reader Comments
Why did the vampire constantly check his personal voicemail during work hours?
He was always missing calls at home.

Why couldn’t the man walk away from the vampire?
He didn’t have enough balls.

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* Ultra-High Frequency

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