The Spinners

Fab Four Suture (Stereolab, 2006)

In Alternative Rock, British, Dodo Dayao, Indie Rock on January 7, 2010 at 7:18 am

Not wounded by Beatlesque as the title would have you think, Stereolab Album #10 bookends instead with Brian Wilson skies raining weird choral sunshine over perky toy melodies. It’s a happy pill. The kind of sublime thrill you’ve grown to depend on Stereolab for. But in between those two halves of “Kyberneticka Babicka”, there’s not a sonic wrinkle previously unheard on the back catalog within earshot.

Not that there’s ever been a dire need to be. Pop will eat itself and Stereolab’s always taken cannibalism to heart, not just making the same record over and over but it’s as if they’re in the perpetual process of making just one, each new record not just feeding off but melting and melding into each other. At heart, Stereolab products have no will to confound expectations. They aim to please, in pure pop vogue, by cranking out what every pop singer cranks out for its devotees: more of the same.  But the same we get more of is all manner of avant-exotica shapeshifted into catchy singsong. That often rich, sometimes deep pop vein they tap bolstered by their fierce belief in the pleasure principle under the skin of those bygone music—chanteuse, krautrock, freejazz, more where that came from—they archive for surplus. This is a leftist pop band modeled after Neu. So, no surprise there. And you’re guaranteed at least some sonic pay-off each time out. And never a dull moment.

Singles strung together and made to cohere, Fab Four Suture does have that transient, random underbubble compilations masquerading as albums possess, the fragments never quite coming to a whole because they were never meant to. But then, that’s the Stereolab aesthetic-in-small. And the further you listen, the more shaped to an agenda it all feels. In full-on pop band mode, the title’s decoded, the more songlike structures justify themselves and the fuller, more robust constitution may be the first time a motif ran through an entire tracklist.

And that sturdy, fluid bottom end does energize what counts for its perks: the motorik hip hop of “Get A Shot of the Refrigerator”, the quasifunky vamp of “Interlock”, the tropicalia electroclash of “Excursions Into ‘Oh,a-Oh’” and the belated return of Tim Gane’s guitar. Five out of twelve and the rest still poised to grow on you is a tally to do most pop bands proud. Fab Four Suture, then—the bass still modulates, the songs still moodswing, the femme vocals still swoop and swoon, the colors still throb, the pop still kaleidoscopes.  More of the same. As expected.

– Dodo Dayao

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