Stereolab CD reviewed by Amy Yates Wuelfing

Music Reviews
Stereolab CD reviewed by Amy Yates Wuelfing
Jul 28, 2008, 05:49


STEREOLAB Chemical Chords CD

If you loved Stereolab and their Space Age Bachelor Pad sound before, you'll love it now. Chemical Chords is the 11th full-length release by Stereolab and their first proper album since 2004's Margerine Eclipse. And with the band entering their 18th year, Stereolab stays true to the sound that made them famous. Short songs, bouncy beats and heavy use of vintage electronic keyboards are all present and accounted for.

The album kicks off with the power-pop gem “Neon Beanbag,” as vocalist Lætitia Sadier sings the lyrics “There she was standing peacefully / Sending a message through telepathy,” which may or may be a reference to band member Mary Hansen, who was tragically killed in 2002. It is one of Chemical Chords' standout tracks and sets a the tone for the rest of the album, which bounces along, conjuring images of Mods dancing the night away.

The mellifluous vocals continue with “Three Women,” which has a complex horn arrangement making it decidedly bossa nova. The title track has a rather “soundtracky” feel and moves this party album along nicely to a string of moody-yet-poppy atmospheric songs, including “Silver Sands,” which breaks out the vibraphone to great effect.

The spell is broken once you get to the wet-blanket instrumental “Pop Molecule [Molecule Pop 1],” made up of droney loops and samples, but the upbeat mood is restored with “Self Portrait with Electric Brain” which gives a Motown experience, complete with horns and strings. “Cellulose Sunshine” puts the harpsichord front and center and recalls the Left Banke, and the whole thing wraps up nicely with the Beatles-esque “Vortical Phonotheque.

Chemical Chords is full of short, retro-sounding, hook-laden songs that get better with each listen and overall, the lyrics seem to have a less political feel than songs in the past. While the absence of Mary Hansen's vocals are at times noticeable, Chemical Chords is Stereolab breaking their music down to its essence, thereby making it more intense.

Take this to the next get-together you attend and watch everyone ask what it is. It's that catchy.

(As an aside, the review copy of Chemical Chords had the last 15? 20? seconds of every song chopped off—one would suppose it's an effort to keep unethical writers from uploading it to a torrent site. Even so, not hearing how a song—or the album as a whole—actually ends is highly annoying.) [4AD]

-Amy Yates Wuelfing


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