Hazel and I dragged ourselves off our lazy behinds and went to see Stereolab last night for the first time in over seven years (Hazel was pregnant last time we saw them (at the Kilburn National)).
Now in those seven years the ‘lab have done little to make me want to see them, they keep failing to deliver (e.g. “The Free Design” promised and "Cobra Phases…” disappointed…). Margerine Eclipse, despite being seen by most reviews as a more of the same album, actually impressed me enough to give it more than the cursory spin that the previous three of four albums had deserved.
As a reward for sticking with me this far, I’ll get right to the point: if you hated Cobra and Phases, Sound-Dust and Dots & Loops, you’ll probably have little need for Stereolab’s eighth proper full-length. All of the hallmarks of latter-day Groop are here.
Anyway, for half an hour last night the groop did little to make me think that they could win me back, Mary’s backing vocals had been replaced with brass and the embracing and warming had given way to the spiky and fragmented - too much hand waving and not enough body-swaying. I was ready to say that this was to be my last ever Stereolab gig. And then it just turned - I’ll admit that it was something special from the past that turned the show - a good but not great Lo Boob Oscillator reminded me how good they can be (are!) - and rather than make me angry (as the ABC Music release had done a couple of years back) it made me want to dance. Suddenly they hit a groove - the brass wasn’t as imposing, the songs (only a few of which I recognised) started rolling a long without the awkwardness and unfamiliarity of earlier. Suddenly I loved this band as much as I had at the Powerhouse back in 93.
Now I’ll admit that I would have loved it more if there’d been a few more oldies - maybe a “Crest” or a 20 minute “Super Electric” would have made the night perfect. But it was good enough. They won me back, now if only they could make a decent album again.