Enivrez Vous avec Summer Cats

You may or may not know (or care) that Stereolab have new album out. I still like Stereolab, but they seem to have come to a point where they have genericized their sound so much that it’s great background muzak.  I like the new album Chemical Chords, but the music sounds so refined that it has been smoothed of all its rough edges. Take me back to the days of Super Electric or the Seeming and the Meaning or Metronomic Underground where the band seemed to have more angst in them and could lite it up with a dirging groove. Like I said, the new record,  is descent, but like the High Lamas (Sean O’Hagen does all Stereolab’s string arrangements) their recent albums just don’t compare to their earlier work. It’s good, but they seem to have lost the edge which made their earlier music so engaging.  I can’t really find anything really wrong with it, but I also can’t find anything that they’re doing that is new or immediate. It seems like the band have for the last four or five albums been on a quest to perfect their sound, making minor tweaks here and there and in doing so have sanitized their sound to a point where it’s hard to engage it.  Maybe that’s the point.  I’m sure Stereolab will continue putting out albums every few years and for some reason I’ll keep buying their albums, out of habit I guess.
the old:
mp3: Stereolab – Super Electric (from Switched On)

the new:
mp3: Stereolab – Self Portriat With “Electric Brain” (from Chemical Chords)

The answer to my Stereolab wo’s has come in the form of an Australian band calling themselves Summer Cats. Their latest single the Lonely Planet, out on Cloudberry is two minutes of krautish swirling guitars and organ with a monotone boy-girl vocal that even starts out with the French Je t’aime a la Stereolab. The Summer Cats feature Scott Stevens of the Earthmen, who were a jangly, pop band that weren’t afraid to rock out. The Earthmen released a bunch of singles and a couple albums in the 90’s on Summershine down under and on Seed here in the United States. The Summer Cats have hints of jangle, especially on their earlier stuff, but they seem to be mining gold with the Kraut direction they’ve been going on both the Cloudberry single and the split single they just released on Slumberland with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.   Stuff like this keeps me buying records, not out habit but out of the sheer fact of being blown away when I hear something this immediate and cracking.

mp3: Summer Cats – Lonely Planet (buy the single from Cloudberry)

mp3: Summer Cats – Let’s Go (buy the single from Slumberland)

And here’s one from the Earthmen, in case you were wondering.

mp3: The Earthmen – Stacey’s Cupboard


  1. bill p · August 28, 2008

    I think the new stereolab is really good… probably their best since Dots and Loops, and definitely the most prominent use of O’Hagan since that time too. It sounds like music for manic housewives.

    Summer Cats are good too though… was unaware it was the guy from the Earthmen.

  2. Toby · August 28, 2008

    I agree that it’s their best since Dots and Loops. I guess that was my point they haven’t made a really good album in ten years. This one has it’s moments but is nowhere near as good as D&L. That said I’m, still going to see them when they come through town and am looking forward to it.

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