Album review: Stereolab

Stereolab - Peng! (Too Pure + Beggars Arkive)

HOUSED IN one of the most memorable sleeves of the 1990s - an image drawn from a 1970s Swiss underground magazine - Stereolab's 1992 debut was a homage to their roots, and a signpost to their future.

The band, based around French musician Lætitia Sadier, were pioneers of what came to be known as post-rock, but throughout their long career, never forgot that people do not always want to sit and ruminate to a record, often they want to dance and lose themselves. Stereolab were always adept at balancing both needs.

Arriving in a British music scene that was post-rave/dance, where the shoegaze era was coming to a close, and ahead of Britpop, the band's combination of Krautrock beats, loungecore, electronica, and avant-garde tendencies, mixed with Velvet Underground groove and noise, and melodic sixties pop, was quite unusual, and Peng! - now reissued on clear vinyl - sets out this diverse stall, melding it into a cohesive whole which makes sense to the mind and the feet.

In terms of roots, 'Perversion' is Stereolab's reinvention of the Velvet's 'What Goes On', while 'Stomach Worm' has a similar riff and rhythm to 'Run, Run, Run', but also shows a pop sensibility and melodic sense that is Stereolab's own. Even better is 'The Seeming and The Meaning', which marries catchy pop, pure indie, and a motorik drone to an inspired, hypnotic, earworm, chorus - as if such genres were actually natural bedfellows. The title track is definitive 1992 guitar indie, while 'Mellotron' and 'Surrealchemist' were more electronic, more experimental. A strong start then, and solid foundations on which Sadier and co would go on to build.

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