When an idiosyncratic singer flies solo from a band their new project must be bolder than before or pursue an interesting tangent. If not, fans may merely be reminded of how much they enjoyed the band and, like an itch that must be scratched, will slip back to relish former favourites.
From 1990, Laetitia Sadier’s sweetly deadpan half-French, half-English vocals took Stereolab’s cosmic-themed, Krautrock-influenced pop to an esoteric realm where it orbited the mainstream for close to 20 years. Stereolab were accused of making ‘Marxist pop’ but their songs were so effervescent only the boffins noticed.
Silencio, however, is de-fizzed by Sadier’s didacticism especially on songs like ‘Auscultation to the Nation’ with its lyrics: “Rating agencies, financial markets, and the G20 / Why should we care about these self-proclaimed authorities?” The biggest flaw is that she doesn’t actually sound angry. Or even politically disenfranchised – however that sounds. I don’t know how any protest music could cut through in these cynical times but singing, sweetly, about ratings agencies just feels clunky.
Silencio is not without redemption. ‘There is a Price to Pay for Freedom’ is a wonderfully hypnotic slow jam and the acid jazz meets lounge music of ‘Fragment pour le future de l’homme’ rivals Stereolab’s liveliest tunes. Overall, this album has enough Stereolab hallmarks to make you crave them but too few new charms to smother the urge.
Like this? Try these: Stereolab, Sound-Dust, Stereolab, Fab Four Suture