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Stereolab: Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night



Album: Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night

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Stereolab spearheaded the exotica revival, reminded fans of the wonders of krautrock, and helped ensure that Burt Bacharach's inevitable return would meet with at least a modicum of fad-fueled appreciation. In the process, the group made ample headway into the realm that would be deemed "post-rock," and became a poster child of the indie underground. Frankly, Stereolab's hipster appeal has always been so strong that it has managed to proceed through most of its career free of criticism. But even the most rabid fan may sense the indulgence of album number six from the long title alone. All the usual Stereolab ingredients remain intact—the nonsensical "ba ba" lyrics, the Farfisa accents, the percolating analog synths—yet the familiar, formulaic shtick (far too much to take for 75 minutes) is piled on so relentlessly that the band is all but lost beneath it. Perhaps the problem lies in all the help Stereolab received in the studio: The capable John McEntire produced, while the ubiquitous Jim O'Rourke and auxiliary member Sean O'Hagan (The High Llamas) also played, produced, and worked on the arrangements. Too many cooks? Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night exudes a jazzy vibe that deviates significantly from the group's Motorik-happy earlier albums, but while the group is looser than usual, it's still much too cold to really swing. The impressive diversity and economy unveiled on 1996's Emperor Tomato Ketchup, the band's undisputed masterpiece, was already beginning to erode with 1997's Dots And Loops. Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night finds Stereolab further reduced to aimless and harmless vamps. While the loopy effect sometimes approaches the hypnotic phase work of Steve Reich, the bulk of the disc flows along like anonymous background music better suited to a Volvo commercial.