Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night
Across at least six proper albums and numerous other releases, Stereolab has proven itself to be one of the major indie rock forces of the '90s. Originally written off as a left-leaning Neu! clone with lounge inclinations, the band has consistently managed to reinvent itself. Its latest, Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, ranks with their best work, 1993's Transient Random-Noise Burst with Announcements. On this trip out, Chicago-based producers John McEntire and Jim O'Rourke provide Stereolab with a rich, layered sound, leaving behind the cold Cologne sound of 1997's Dots and Loops. Cobra and Phases Groups is the band's longest album, clocking in over 75 minutes. But this never becomes a strain, and the songs distinguish themselves nicely. Gone is the drone that was the band's early trademark; instead, they've gone for more orthodox song structures. Lovely string flourishes garnish "Puncture in the Radar," while lead singer Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen harmonize beautifully.
Beneath the pop trappings, Stereolab remains Stereolab. The band's Marxist ideology (with a strongly feminist bent) still reveals itself in Sadier's lyrics. The poppy sounds offset the lyrics nicely: it's Marxism to fall in love to. A