Stereolab @ SWG3, Glasgow, 22 Jun
Following a ten year hiatus, Stereolab's victory lap has more than enough innovative goodies to entice and entertain
There's a certain buzz around the room before Stereolab arrive, though not quite the excitement you might expect for a band that've been away for more than ten years. A possible explanation might be that the music of Stereolab seems to be confined to its era – a time still keenly remembered by the majority of the crowd – moreso than other bands who've returned after a hiatus to find their music repackaged for the current generation (Pavement and Pixies for indie-rock, or D'Angelo and Maxwell for R'n'B, for example). Their curious and inventive mix of motorik lo-fi and sophisticated, political avant-pop lyricism is perhaps too niche to be effectively repurposed. It's what makes Stereolab such a singular group, but also one that has struggled to pick up new fans during their time away. So the night is something of a time capsule.
The band seem to appreciate this, compiling a bona fide 'greatest hits' setlist that moves deftly from the fast-paced Brakhage and French Disko to more contemplative exercises like Anamorphose and Metronomic Underground. The sound is excellent throughout, enveloping the room in crisp guitar lines, lithe synth-work and tight percussion. Tim Gane's frantic energy is a perfect complement to Laetitia Sadier's laconic presence; she cuts a magnetic figure, alternately aloof and engaged, whether delivering dadaist diatribes, indulging in a little dance-cum-shuffle or forgetting which song comes next.
Ping Pong leads into a superlative homestretch that also includes Percolator, Crest and Lo Boob Oscillator, the final song in particular locking into a mesmerising drone that has the audience captivated. It's a performance that grows into its own, more impressive as a unified expression of artistry rather than broken down into its constituent parts. It's therefore a bit of a shame that the final phase of the show is a bit rushed – more to do with SWG3 curfew regulations than band choices – forgoing any extended explorations in favour of concise, hypnotic grooves. But, even if they aren't reinventing the wheel (any more), a Stereolab victory lap has more than enough innovative goodies to entice and entertain.