Fab Four Suture
By: Eric Greenwood
Every time Stereolab releases an album, the same arguments and justifications are bandied about, all of which revolve around the complaint that each new Stereolab album sounds exactly like the last one. It's an ignorant assertion, but it's easy to understand why it's become an issue over the years. Evolving out of an obsession with kraut-rock, repetitive instrumental breaks, monotone vocals, and, of course, the moog, Stereolab has absorbed all of its varied influences into an insular world, where nuance reigns over big ideas.
As much as the band's sound, compositional skill, complexity of arrangement, and layered vocal harmonies have grown over the years, Stereolab still sounds like, well, Stereolab. Critics of the band could conceivably have a hard time distinguishing what makes one Stereolab album better or worse than another, but it's the discerning listener that reaps the rewards. To my ear, Stereolab has never released a bad album. Sure, I like the undercurrent of '60's pop inflected stylings on Dots and Loops better than, say, the multi-layered skronking jazz bursts of Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, but there's never been a Stereolab record that I felt lowered the bar set by the experimental brilliance of 1993's Transient Random Noisebursts with Announcements.
Being as outrageously prolific as Stereolab has been in its 14-year existence has lent further credence to the naysayers, who dismiss the band's syncopated, euro-lounge as repetitive and dull. I argue just the opposite. No other band has had the power to transport its listener to another world as effortlessly and consistently as Stereolab has and does. Fab Four Suture is no exception in the band's unerring mission, despite its semi-album status (it's technically a collection of recent 7-inch singles). It is a little more scattered than the last few proper Stereolab albums in terms of musical threads, but the urbane electro-funk of "Interlock" as well as the jittery disco pomp of "Eye of the Volcano" prove that Stereolab is still tweaking the formula with one foot in Esquivel's grave and the other several light years away.