A friend of mine summed up being a Stereolab fan the other night. Upon telling him about this latest release, after the initial spark of interest about whether it was any good, he told me he still hadn’t heard their last album. His reason? That the great thing about Stereolab’s music for him was that there was just so much of it that he felt under absolutely no pressure to rush out and buy a new album because there would always be something he hadn’t got anyway.
It is fair to say that this friend is not the band’s most ardent follower in the world, but the point he was making is a very valid one. Although there are no doubt many people who do, probably around 75% of Stereolab fans do not own everything in their back catalogue.
For the 25% of completists out there, it is quite an expensive business. Fab Four Suture is Stereolab’s 18th album – if you include compilations, as Fab Four Suture is. That is without mentioning the numerous EP and single releases the band has put out over the years.
For such enthusiasts the material on this 12-track collection will be familiar. It comprises three 7″ singles released last September along with a similar trio released on the same day as this album. Now on CD for the first time, the tracks are the first new recordings since the band’s return to the Too Pure label last year.
So, is it any good? Although it doesn’t hang together like a studio album might, the answer is a resounding yes. What you get for your money is trademark Stereolab – hypnotic rhythm tracks, sunny melodies and lots of blissful electronica, all wrapped up in that usual retro feel.
The collection is nicely bookended by the repetitive looped organs of Kyberneticka Babicka, featuring vocal harmonies that conjure thoughts of what it would sound like had you recorded the The Mamas And The Papas midway through an LSD trip.
All in all this is quite a varied collection. Synth-horns are resplendent on the tuneful Plastic Mile, Visionary Road Maps offers shades of a 1960s US TV crime drama theme tune, Excursions Into “Oh, A-Oh” jumps from an up tempo samba rhythm to a glorious post-punk finale, while preceding that, Whisper Pitch is a lovely laid back tune complete with stunning coda finale.
Another highlight is the quirkily titled Get A Shot Of The Refrigerator – a track driven by drums throughout numerous tempo changes amid a rainbow of electronica. While contained within the synth heavy Interlock is the phrase “consumorphic morality”, surely a music first.
Stereolab have always been clever lyricists, never ones to miss a trick in hiding a political message in seemingly simplistic and sugar-coated tunes. Take Eye Of The Volcano where, amid the beeps and gloops, the ever enchanting Laetitia Sadier warns of “fascism winning”.
The band is set to start recording its next studio album, the follow-up to 2004’s Margerine Eclipse, in France next month. In the meantime Fab Four Suture should do very nicely to satisfy a Stereolab faithful who have been lucky enough to see a new release of some description every year since their formation in 1992.