Music

Stereolab: Fab Four Suture

Like all their best recordings, this sounds both like a ‘typical Stereolab album’ and like nothing they've done before.


Stereolab

Fab Four Suture

Label: Duophonic
US Release Date: 2006-03-07
UK Release Date: 2006-03-06
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Insound affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Words like "introspective" and "heart-baring" are rarely used to describe Stereolab's music. But then there's the last minute of "Whisper Pitch", the eighth track on their new album Fab Four Suture. There's Laetitia Sadier, after singing in a more distanced yet determined tone about connection between human beings, and our own responsibility for how we treat each other. switching to sing sweetly, openly, about how pleasing that connection can be. "Thank you so much... it feels so good... it feels alive and real again." Their music has perhaps sounded this intimate before, but never has Sadier's voice cut through the layers of style in such a direct way, to express a feeling that sounded so personal.

Throughout Fab Four Suture, Sadier's singing has a serious, forlorn tone to it, even when the music sounds shiny and new. The album's lyrics together form a lament for the state of the world today -- for war, for governments suppressing freedom, for the powerlessness that everyday people feel in the face of it all -- along with an encouragement to humans to work together, treat each other like people, and push for governments that would do the same.

Stereolab's lyrics have always been political in a philosophical, big-picture way, more about systems of power than about particular issues or individuals. And those sentiments have always been easy to overlook, floating as they do over a sensuous mixture of synthesizers and beats and guitars and voices. The ideas seem more foregrounded than ever on Fab Four Suture, though I imagine it's just as easy to listen past them, given the stylish, colorful atmosphere that they're hiding in. In a way that makes their ideas about the world's problems hit so much harder than if the lyrics read like lectures and the music was built around them like a pulpit; that is, if they resembled what most people mean what they think of political music. When you're listening to the textures, to the melodies, to the overall sound of the music, and you stumble across some words about "fake morality" or nihilism, you're likely to lean in closer, to try and figure them out like a puzzle... which is what Stereolab's distinct blend of styles often resembles anyway.

Fab Four Suture opens and closes with a theatrical vamp -- "Kyberneticka Babicka" -- which frames the album as a warped carnival dream. Sadier sings "aahs" and "las" to the tune, which winds hypnotically in circles, marching along as if a few psychedelic rockers and a couple renegade members of a classical ensemble joined forces to run through the Philip Glass discography. After the opening fanfare the group snaps into a sexy, brassy groove, as they often do on Fab Four Suture, occasionally even partway through a song, or from one groove to another.

On Fab Four Suture Stereolab's genre obsessions and instruments are woven together tightly, their sound dense and full. Sadier sings capably along with herself, the late Mary Hansen's absence no longer leaving a noticeable hole in the vocal set-up. Horns make a notable impression, and along with a certain style of guitar lick they help to evoke '70s funk on tracks like "Eye of the Volcano". Synthesizers are often in abundance, and on songs like "Visionary Road Maps" and "Vodiak", they're used in a way that's evocative of '80s new wave pop, not just the usually referenced Krautrock of the '70s. Those two songs also share a storybook-like aura of fantasy, one which is evoked through textures and touches during much of the album, especially the more slumberous ballads. It's a fairytale mood as on 2001's Sound-Dust, only much more vivid and rich. "Widow Weirdo" at first has a similar lazy-day feeling, but then the song perks up, with jazzy guitar, muted horns, and a shuffling beat taking the song in a new direction. Scattered throughout the album are moments like this when Stereolab regroups mid-song, generally shifting towards a tougher, more robust approach.

"Robust" is a perfect descriptive word for the album, which presents a full, confident-sounding Stereolab. To an extent that was true as well of their last proper studio album, 2003's Margarine Eclipse, though that album felt a bit more like a retread, like they were creating the Stereolab album that listeners would most expect but then making it sound a bit fuller. This album sounds rich and new. Like all their best recordings, it sounds both like a "typical Stereolab album" and like nothing they've done before. In the moment when you're listening (grooving, appreciating, experiencing) it feels more like the latter.

And somehow it's fitting for a group that has released so much music in so many different forms -- 7" singles, CD EPs, mini-albums, box sets -- that such a cohesive, involving, pleasurable-as-an-album album would actually consist mostly of songs that were previously released...in some form anyway. Fab Four Suture is technically referred to by the band as a "compilation", because all of its songs are also available on singles: three 7" singles that were released in 2005, and three that come out the same day as the album itself. Stereolab, who still does a tour-only single for nearly every tour they embark on, has a discography filled with releases that are hard to classify (is it a compilation, an LP, or something else?). That ambiguity enhances the magic that exists around each release. That magic can be found in their music as well. On Fab Four Suture it's easy to find.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.