By: Eric Greenwood
Stereolab never fails to remove me from whatever my surroundings are. I am instantly carried off to moog Utopia (Potatoes, Comrade?), thanks to Laetitia Sadier's otherworldly monotone and Tim Gane's lush and locked melodic grooves. I never really try to distinguish one song from another on Stereolab albums. Each album is a mood piece and as consistent as Christmas. The lyrics are unimportant, as I am never moved by their content. The inflections of Sadier's melodies are what toy with my emotions. I miss her vocal interaction with Mary Hanson, though, whose delicate voice provided a perfect compliment to Sadier's stoic lilt, but, sadly, she was struck by a bus while riding her bike two years ago in London. Her absence does not derail the songs, however. The subtle variations between albums would go unnoticed by casual listeners, but I relish them. The difficult jazz-bursts of Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night morphed into lite-rock, indie pop schmaltz by 2001's Sound-Dust, while Margerine Eclipse takes the retro-futurism of Emperor Tomato Ketchup a few steps further with whirring noises, syncopated rhythms, soft synths, and chiming guitars arranged in superbly off-kilter snippets of loveliness. The formula has never been broken; it's only tweaked slightly with each new album, and I never want it to end.