REVIEW: Stereolab at Turner Hall Ballroom

Stereolab came to town at Turner Hall Friday night, and it was their first time ever playing in Milwaukee. After being on a hiatus for ten years they went back on tour this summer and played a number of festivals both in America and in Europe. It was a sold-out show – I imagine it was a dream come true for indie music lovers from generations before mine. The textural psychedelia group Bitchin’ Bajas opened for them. As a fanatic of eccentric pop, I wouldn’t miss this one for the world.

If you’ve poured into eccentric indie bands of the 90’s, you’ve probably come across the English-French band Stereolab at some point. Described as everything from avant-pop to krautrock to being one of the first described as post-rock, Stereolab is among the most essential and innovative “cult” groups to emerge from their era. Records such as ‘Mars Audiac Quintet” and “Emperor Tomato Ketchup” and “Dots and Loops” are not only timeless but nearly unclassified. They play with space-y synthesizers, jangling guitars, cacophonous drones, unusual time signatures, Laetitia Sadier’s hypnotic vocals that alternate between English and French, and anti-capitalist lyrical themes. Interestingly enough, while critics have read into Marxist allusions in the band’s lyrics, Stereolab claims not to be Marxist.

Stereolab consists of lead vocalist/guitarist/auxiliary percussionist Laetitia Sadier, guitarist/synthesizer Tim Gane, drummer Andy Ramsay, synthesizer/organist Joe Watson, and bassist Xavier Munoz Guimera. Sadier frequently introduced each song by name, and seemed enthralled to be playing in a new city. Despite the packed crowd, I got up pretty close on the left side of the stage.

The actual show was brilliant; Stereolab did not disappoint in their choice of songs. Their hits “Ping Pong”, “Miss Modular”, “Brakhage”, “Lo Boob Oscillator”, “Metronomic Underground”, and “French Disko” all fit themselves in the set, while some deeper cuts from their albums “Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements” and “Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night” also got played. Although the band did not present any newly-written music, their song “The Stars Our Destination” from “Mars Audiac Quintet” had never been played until this year.

Overall, I was enamored with getting to see this band. I would absolutely not pass up a time to see these alternative pop icons if you, the reader, gets the chance to.

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