Stereolab - Fab Four Suture
Since their formation in 1990, French band Stereolab have dazzled fans and critics alike with their distinct sound, mixing 1960's sounding lounge music with pop to create something that manages to sound fresh and retro at the same time. Now back on their original label, Too Pure, this release brings together songs from their recent 7" singles. However, the order of the songs has been changed, so they are not in the order in which they were chronologically released. Instead, the album is sequenced as if it were a proper album, and a very fine album it is as well.
It opens and closes with "Kyberneticka Babicka Pt1" and "Pt2", and both are wonderful - repetitive, yes, but with a lovely whoozy feel, almost like a mantra, the same piece over and over with added keyboards and swoops. Its artsy without pretension, a collage of sound that sets up the album nicely. Second track "Interlock" is a fresh sounding slice of pop, keyboard stabs and horns on a jittery beat. Laetitia Sadler sounds as wonderful as ever, her understated vocals clear and bright amid the tunes. As the track drops, the bass kicks in, letting the song build again around it. Great stuff.
"Plastic Man" sounds like old Nintendo music, clipped keyboards with the horn section playing gently in the background - Gameboy music set to an orchestra. "Get a Shot of the Refrigerator" is a treat, slamming drums snapping the beat into shape amid moogs and horns. "Vodiak" is also a joy for fans of old keyboards - they pulse and bleep and bloop against Sadler's wonderful vocal, with a brilliant shuffling drum and a tight guitar line. Also great is "I Was a Sunny Rainphase" - it starts with a sound like a gameboy firing up that repeats throughout, and has a sequenced keyboard line that gives the song a nursery rhyme feel.
Album highlight is "Excursions Into "Oh, a-oh"", an absolute belter of a track. It starts with cracking, electronic drums, with a bouncing beat and distorted cymbals. At about the halfway mark, the song explodes into sounds, taking it to higher levels, guitars rev the track up until it reaching a mighty crescendo. Its fabulous stuff and well worth the price of the album alone.
"Fab Four Suture" is brilliant, and the best release from Stereolab for a long time. It matches their old fashioned sound with a strict pop ethic beautifully, a fine collection of songs from intelligent, inventive musicians. Long may they continue to do so.