Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I was reheating a hearty portion of ravioli when I realized I hadn't listened to Stereolab for a while, that in mind I plucked this from the racks and fired up my turntable. 'Switched On' came out the same year as the band's debut 'Peng' and is a rather pointless compilation of the first two 10inches and the 'Stunning Debut Album' 7inch.

The album's release set a steady pattern that continues until present day where the 'groop' pretty much match every album release with a compilation of somekind - Not that I am complaining for a second. I hate 7inch singles and without this considerate marketing ploy I would be without much of the band's better work.

This needs to be a review of the record 'Switched On' and not an over-view of the band, but it is so hard to write about them without at least saying a few words, checking a few boxes, raising the odd glass...

Stereolab: artful pillagers of counter culture, politcs and music, the reason that my musical listenings are no longer restricted to the Revelation records mailing list, Dischord back catalogue and an uneven spattering of early 90's Hip-Hop. In short, without Stereolab this space would no doubt be inhabited by a rather shouty lamenting of the first Strife album or a piece arguing the merits of Jeru the Damaja.

It was actually through stolen conversations with members of Stereolab that I set off on the musical journey that I now find myself upon and for that they will always have a special place in my heart. I should I suppose hate them, at least in part, without our chance meetings, hastily scribbled notes and partly remembered reccomendations I would probably be a lot fitter, having put my daylight hours to a very different non-record hoarding use but I don't. At least in this review I don't, here I will try and see my gift from them as just that, a minor super-power - new ears and not the darkened doorway to a financal black hole that has killed relationships as well as seen me sell of furniture and clothes....

Moving swiftly along and for a change touching on the aural contents of said record - Sound wise it is a lot more guitar orientated than later work. I would be interested to find out exactly when Tim Gane discovered Krautrock, a genre from which it is almost impossible to seperate the majority of their latter output. That is not the case here, I am reminded instead of the band's contemporaries, the shoegazing scene, Spiritualized, MBV and the like and this really isn't a bad thing as although you can put a date on it it doesn't sound dated.

Let's further contextualise this: 'Switched On' came out in 1992 so the band was swimming up stream against the day-glo idioticity of Rave culture and the sweeping storm that was Seattle, I recall when being asked my thoughts on the group around this time saying something along the lines of:

'It's music for girls and French people isn't it?'

That in mind it's no small miracle that they are still around to not just tell the tale but expand upon the story. Anyway, enough of this borderline homosexual whimsy.

'Super Electric' is great, the song buzzes, comes alive in your hands, 'The Light That will Cease to Fail' and 'Doubt; are also highlights for obvious reasons. (They were openers on the respective singles and EPs) The 'anger' and urgency of later releases is noticably absent here, the band sound more content, as if they have better things to do than try and solve the worlds problems through quasi-Marxist lyrics and hypnotic guitar janglings. They sound like a band without an agenda and it's an innocence that is not without its appeal.

It's pretty amazing, listen to it again.

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