Well, you have to admit they’re good at what they do. But then so was Hitler. As egghead dilettantes [I]par excellence[/I], [a]Stereolab[/a] have dabbled in drum’n’bass, post-rock, Krautrock, ’60s girl-group harmony pop, jazz and world music over the past decade, but have still managed to seal everything in their bubble of insipid designer-beige aesthetics and make all their records sound the same. The only difference being that they dispensed with the idea of writing decent pop tunes in 1993, in case it might encourage the working classes to breed or something.
[a]Stereolab[/a] will doubtless be dismayed to learn, however, that this record has far more in common with bad jazz and progressive rock than any experimental art-rock tradition. Pervaded by pompous pseudo-intellectual ‘ideas’, borrowing credibility by indulgently showing off their stylistic dexterity, thinking that odd time signatures and weird sounds are clever in their own right, being deliberately obscure and unlistenable to make people think, ‘It’s just too complicated and clever for a thicko like me. If only I was intelligent enough to be into [a]Stereolab[/a]!’ – verily, sayeth the sage, ’tis a thin line between ‘Puncture In The Radax Permutation‘ and ‘Chronicles Of Nargor The Wizard Parts I-XXVII‘.
They lay their intentions bare with the first track, ‘Fuses‘, which takes anaemic cod-Brazilian rhythms, adds unlistenable squiggles, ‘Let’s look through the arched window’-glockenspiel and kitsch space noodles while trying to echo some abominable modern jazz style. Not nice.
‘Blue Milk‘ is the 11-minute artistic centrepiece of this ‘work’. We know this because it’s the longest and nearly impossible to listen to. It features, innovatively enough, two chords going on and on. They may have some theory that this produces feelings of pleasure in the cerebral cortex. And yet, at the same time you suspect they labour under the laughable delusion that this is in some way pop music. For example, ‘Op Hop Detonation‘ approximates some kind of jazz-funk groove, but it is way too effete, cerebral and kitschly tasteful to hit you anywhere it hurts. That’s because ultimately Stereolab have this tosserish art-school idea that pop is nothing more than brain candy, just there to tickle you slightly. The capacity for music to hit you viscerally, spiritually or emotionally is just an interesting cultural studies theory to them, and one which they don’t instinctively understand.
And so, while they want their endless [I]”ba da da”[/I]s to be the stuff of postmodern girl-group dreams, instead Laetitia‘s soulless, stultifying voice sounds like Bond villainess Rosa Klebb singing washing powder instructions into a karaoke machine after having her coffee drugged with Mogadon. If only we were better listeners, then we could find impenetrable, waffling post-graduate sub-Marxist diatribes defeating their own purpose!
So, after scaling new heights up their own self-satisfied arses, Stereolab now make lame, impotent test-card muzak for muzos. And this album is a sexless, emotionless, witless, cripplingly self-indulgent, pompously self-satisfied, intellectually hollow, achingly pretentious, stultifyingly bland, spiritually bereft, ideologically bankrupt, aesthetically repugnant, culturally pointless, musically sterile heap of shit. Roll on the revolution.