London SE1 Queen Elizabeth Hall

For, be honest, while you always dug the airy subversion of their lounge lizardry, [a]Stereolab[/a] were only ever a truly militant proposition when they laid down the filterless Gitanes and rocked

London SE1 Queen Elizabeth Hall

Rock comes to your living room at the QEH, what with its capacious seats, uninterrupted views of the stage (just like watching on a huge telly) and, for this [a]Radio 1[/a]-sponsored bash, the reassuring drones of [a]John Peel[/a]. Into this cauldron of agreeability, [a]Stereolab[/a] fit like endless rounds of hot-buttered toast and lashings of ginger beer: comfortable, familiar, but always poised to bubble over.



Dominating the scene of rampant domesticity is Tim Gane. Or, more specifically, Tim Gane's trousers. Not to mention his shoes, reminding one how rare it is for bands' feet to be so readily visible during live performance. Resplendent in the finest pair of Rupert The Bear slacks and pale-blue brogues ever witnessed beyond Nick Faldo's locker, Gane wigs out to what partner Laetitia Sadier terms "the new old sound", a typically succinct precis of latest 'Lab developments. The four new songs receiving premieres, in a set conspicuously reluctant to acknowledge 1997's impressive but over-methodical 'Dots And Loops' album, trumpet a more-than-slight return to the geometric groove juggernauts for which this group is renowned but has always striven to see beyond, as if vaguely ashamed of using the past to forge its version of the future.



It's not, of course, a nostalgic exercise. [a]Stereolab[/a] have instigated this back-to-basics campaign as a means to vault exultantly forward once more, and these new vehicles with such great titles as 'Strobo Acceleration' and 'The Free Design' rumble down their very own private autobahn with an ostentatious glee. Reliable sources suggest that on record they'll be furnished with extravagant brass and string sections, as orchestrated by Chicago avant-pop titan Jim O'Rourke, but live the 'Lab simply let fly with their most uninhibited array of sonic gloops and a revived faith in the power of repetition.



For, be honest, while you always dug the airy subversion of their lounge lizardry, [a]Stereolab[/a] were only ever a truly militant proposition when they laid down the filterless Gitanes and rocked us into hegemony. This they do here with the barest equivocation and just the odd waver, notably when Mary Hansen and Laetitia slip out of synch while grappling with fizzed-up newcomer 'Op Hop Detonation', much to the latter's giggly amusement. Dour and studied by repute, let the record state that [a]Stereolab[/a] had an inordinately good time this evening, and that their new album will be called 'Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night'.



There's even sufficient vim for a hip-swinging encore romp through 'Super Electric'. Not only does this doughty antique remind all concerned that [a]Stereolab[/a] were fathoming the possibilities of Krautrock-with-added-tunes while today's cosmic sprogs still thought of Can solely as a baked bean container, it suggests a band more at ease with themselves than ever before.



Although that much had been confirmed at the outset by Tim's trousers.

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