I probably have more Stereolab related releases in my CD and vinyl collection than any other artist and it’s seemingly a love that will never die despite my wife’s continuing hatred of them. I first read about Stereolab in a Coleg Glan Hafren library copy of Melody Maker back in 1992, they had two releases out at the same time, their debut album Peng and a compilation of previously released seven inch singles called Switched On. I read the review, thought that I liked the sound of that, and truth be told I also thought their singer Laetitia Sadier was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen* and so off I popped into Cardiff’s city centre to buy both CDs at Spillers and that was it – I was hooked on Stereolab.**
Since then there have been 15 album releases, lots of eps, and way too many singles released for various tours and collaborations some of which have been on 7” vinyl, 3” mini CDs (my favourite is a collaboration with Nurse With Wound on CD single which came wrapped in a foil sleeve), flexi discs and so on and so on. I’ve got Laetita’s spin off band Monade’s releases which I really like and her solo albums are pretty darn good too. The Lab’s guitarist Tim Gane has made some soundtrack albums and I’ve got them too, oh and I bought the box set of singles that I already had when they first came out because it came with stickers, a DVD and a previously unreleased version of one of my favourite Lab songs ‘Ping Pong’ which let’s be frank here reader, I really struggle to hear any difference in when compared to the original version. I even have the e.p. of music made by band member Mary Hanson which was released after she died ten years ago and that is still sealed. Actually no, that’s not strictly true – I carefully unsealed it, ripped the tracks to put on my computer and then resealed it and you really can’t tell that it’s been opened – it’s in mint, like new condition.
Despite all this and despite my 21 years of dedication I am however somewhat of a Stereolab lightweight – even though as well as the stuff I’ve just mentioned I also have loads of Japanese versions of their albums which I had to get as they have tracks only available on these releases, I know for a fact that there are Lab fans out there whose collections trump mine several times over. They have the John Cage Bubblegum 7” single that came with an actual stick of bubblegum, every version of the Sound Dust album including the vinyl one which came with a hand painted book and tracks longer on the vinyl than the CD – don’t worry, I have these tracks thanks to a very good bloke called Basil on the Stereolab message board who made me a DVD with hours and hours of rare Stereolab stuff on that I didn’t have in exchange for a packet of Dorset Knobs.***
Am I jealous of these people? I’m not really sure – the old me absolutely, I’d love to have that stick of bubblegum sitting in my record box with the accompanying vinyl remaining doggedly unplayed as I already have the tracks on a Stereolab compilation (the Japanese version of course). But the new me, the one who knows that it’s only the music that matters, that I have all these songs and more on CD, on a lovely homemade DVD from Boris and on bootlegs downloaded from the Internet, is the new me jealous?
Oh of course I am.
* And I still do.
** I don’t feel confident enough in my writing abilities yet to attempt to write about what Stereolab sound like without sounding like a total pretentious muso but here is a link to their song Lo Boob Oscilator (It originally came out on Sub Pop on 7” clear vinyl – like you care!!!!) which is one of their songs that I think encapsulates absolutely everything that I love about them and everything that so infuriates my beautiful wife.
*** This is true.