May 08, 2003

Stereolab "ABC Music"

It is indeed difficult to talk about this collection without mentioning the death of key member Mary Hansen. Perhaps it is fitting, then, that this retrospective collection was destined to be released at the time of her death, as it really serves as not only a "greatest-hits" of sorts, but also stands as evidence of the magic of Stereolab in a live setting. And unlike previous singles collections, ABC Music covers the full range of Stereolab's long and varied career, serving up the "hits" that fans would expect: "John Cage Bubblegum," "Lo Boob Oscillator," "French Disko," "Les Yper Sound." (What, no "Ping Pong"?)

Starting off with the wonderful "Super Electric," ABC Music serves as a wonderful reminder that Stereolab's magic was with them since birth. Relentless, beautiful, and mesmerizing were three words I thought when I first heard them all those years ago, and those words certainly come to mind again, hearing a young Stereolab starting off on their journey. Underneath all of the art, though, was a pure heart of pop gold, and when put on the radio, they never failed to present the audience with magic. There's nothing on ABC Music that's self-indulgent, or too long; only the "Metronomic Underground" stretches out their songs past the ten minute mark, and while two CD's worth of Stereolab might be a bit much for some, it passes by too quickly.

I don't know if ABC Music is complete; it certainly seems a bit odd that they dropped off of the radio circuit for five years. Still, that really doesn't matter; after all, they really haven't changed up their formula too much over the past decade. It's amazing to note that no matter how much they change, Stereolab almost always stays the same. While the future might be uncertain, ABC Music is a nice reminder of the magic that is Stereolab. Mary Hansen's passing was tragic; her music was heavenly, and if ABC Music accomplishes anything, it serves as a reminder of that. A wonderful collection from a wonderful band, and maybe their loss does not mean their end; if it does, this record will serve as a wonderful final statement of their greatness.

--Joseph Kyle

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