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Stereolab | Fab Four Suture (Too Pure)
In separate discussions with Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier in past issues of CwaS, it has become clear that logistical and aesthetical divisions are deeply rooted within Stereolab's ranks.  This is no clumsy reference to Gane and Sadier's now-dissolved romantic relationship however, but more to the pure nuts and bolts of their creative partnership and to the means of disseminating the fruits of such labour.  Thus; Gane always cuts and shapes the music, Sadier chisels every word and where Gane loves the economics of singles and EPs, Sadier prefers the length of long-players.  With the conception of 'Fab Four Suture', both methodological preferences seem to have been represented democratically and with a large degree of success.

In line with both short and long form release preferences, the album's twelve tracks have also all been separately released across six specially-packaged 7" singles.  Whilst ecologists will one day have Stereolab up against the wall for wasting the world's resources through such duplicate manufacturing endeavours, the concept is certainly a benevolent act to satisfy Stereolab's most loyal - and latterly-neglected - vinyl-loving fans.  

Sonically, the collection's odd gestation appears to have had an intriguingly positive effect.  Whereas the 'Lab's last proper album - 2004's 'Margerine Eclipse' - sounded compressed, processed and formulaic, there's a far greater undulation of styles and production values on display here.  The book-ending two-part "Kybernetick√° Babička" is a particularly refreshing way of opening and closing the record, with its carnival-like orchestration and retro-futuristic sheen.  Elsewhere, the likes of "Interlock" and "Get A Shot of The Refrigerator" provide playful bouts of insistent Stax-flavoured soul-funk grooves.  The squadron of antique synths deployed across "Vodiak" will appeal to those who lost interest in Stereolab after 1994's 'Mars Audiac Quintet'.  For those keener on the group's late-'90s dalliances with Chicago's post-rock crowd, then the nimble Jeff Parker-like jazz guitar doodling on "Widow Weirdo" and the cut 'n' paste time-signatures of "Visionary Road Maps" will almost certainly delight.  The group's darker messier side, largely reserved for the live arena, is also represented with the delicious guitar/organ-heavy instrumental outro to "Excursions Into 'Oh, A-Oh'".

For all the apparent effort Gane has put into crafting some strong - and less stereotypically Stereolab - musical beddings, the side is somewhat let down by Sadier's increasingly ambivalent vocal/lyrical input.  It's her half of the songwriting equation that ultimately stops 'Fab Four Suture' from being a classic compendium of hook-heavy A-sides and mad-eyed experimental B-sides, that the band would have once been capable of delivering through a singles-into-album creation such as this.  Philosophically-speaking though, condemning Stereolab for Sadier's laxity would be like dismissing Dylan simply because of his nasal drone - it's something you have to put up with to reach the best stuff.  And without much doubt, 'Fab Four Suture' is still a very good little Stereolab album, despite it being flown with just one sturdy wing.

Adrian Pannett
April 2006

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