Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Stereolab

  • Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements [Elektra, 1993] ***
  • Mars Audiac Quintet [Elektra, 1994] **
  • Emperor Tomato Ketchup [Elektra, 1996] A-
  • Dots and Loops [Elektra, 1997] B
  • Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night [Elektra, 1999] ***
  • Microbe Hunters [Elektra, 2000] Neither

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements [Elektra, 1993]
almost hooky enough to reconcile me to a world that needs Marxist background music ("Tone Burst," "I'm Going Out of My Way") ***

Mars Audiac Quintet [Elektra, 1994]
not quite hooky enough to reconcile me to a world that needs Marxist background music ("Wow and Flutter," "Fiery Yellow") **

Emperor Tomato Ketchup [Elektra, 1996]
So it isn't just silly punk songs--yet other people want to fill the world with silly Marxist songs, and what's wrong with that? Academia being the main place Marxism remains a cultural fact in Anglo-American culture, I say watered-down théorie is as valid as the watered-down surrealism we've always made allowances for. I also say the band's ideological tastes commit it to a measure of musical realism, preventing their postdance from doodling off into the ether. So although the obvious tunes, playful sound effects, pretty counterpoints, and mysterioso textures may--no, do--add up to pop, what they don't add up to, despite the vaunted Tortoise connection, is anything fools can pigeonhole as postrock. Songful hence no longer cool, this band will finally repay your undivided attention. A-

Dots and Loops [Elektra, 1997]
From folkie soprano to synthesizer tweedle, many young people are down with their validation of high and clean--"Let There Be Flutes," as Bentley Rhythm Ace put it. And on a pretty good track, too, just like Emperor Tomato Ketchup is a fine album. Where us down and dirty types say sayonara is after the high artist peaks. Exploring rather than apotheosizing personal secrets, the high artist is like any other formalist, especially since he, she, or they probably suffered from formalist tendencies to begin with. On this album the tunes fall off and the wacky smarts lose the charm of surprise. There's still plenty of agile bass and clever sonic garbage. But only the high and clean will notice. B

Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night [Elektra, 1999]
Yeah! appropriate that vibraphone! and definitely that Glasstinato! ("Blue Milk," "Blips Drips and Strips"). ***

Microbe Hunters [Elektra, 2000] Neither