15th June | SWX
Photos: Kristina Kimlickova
Stereolab’s live comeback sparks enthusiasm, singalongs and reminds us the band’s avant-pop is still as relevant, fizzy and futuristic as it was in the 90s.
It may come as a surprise from a band that has just reunited after a decade-long hiatus to fire off their biggest number, ‘French Disko’ right at the start. This tells a lot about the nature of Stereolab. They’re not here for any Greatest Hits songbook or nostalgic singalongs – which do actually take place – leaving frontwoman Laetitia Sadier pleasantly stunned.
Stereolab are here to do what they do best, playing a selection of exquisite pop tunes, reminding us how much of a unique oddball they’ve always been and still are. Their yè yè-influenced fuzzy, Farfisa-like pop was an avant-garde exception in the 90s – a decade saturated with 60s revival – but it’s no surprise it still seems fresh and sparkly.
French and English lyrics alternate now on sonic guitar licks, suspended between The Velvet Underground and early 70s modular electronic experimentations, then on mellow, sparkling yè-yè tongue-twisters and samba moods.
Leave the audience’s average age aside for a minute and Stereolab could well be the latest indie wonder. With their uplifting pop hooks and dreamy vocal harmonies, the Anglo-French quartet can easily seduce those few young faces who may not be too familiar with the act’s back catalogue.
The audience is clearly in a frenzy, shouting to request numbers from early albums and singing along to ‘Ping Pong’ and ‘Lo Boob Oscillator’ – for sure not the most classic of indie anthems. Stereolab have established with time a cult niche by themselves and their initiates all gathered at SWX. They’re the intellectual, Guardian-reading, sci-fi loving, non-shouting side of 90s British indie culture.
They perfectly mirror a band that never really needed a swaggering hit because they had sophisticated pop writing skills on their side. They probably were those kids who at university spent time reading Marx and collecting Gainsbourg soundtracks, while the raving kids in Oasis tees were busy dating girls. Tonight, though, they and Stereolab are the 90s moral winners.
See Stereolab play live at Primavera Sound 2019: