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Selling Out In The Silent Era

Stereobateís first full-length record, Selling Out In The Silent Era, is less a rock album and more an anti-rock manifesto, complete with sweeping musical proclamations, damning musical indictments, and grand utopian visions of a better musical world. This is a band with something to say, and they donít particularly care if you understand their message (in fact, Iím not sure I get it at all), as long as theyíre sure youíve heard it.

On my first listen through Selling Out, I found myself grasping for antecedents to the storm and stress that is Stereobate. There are elements of Sonic Youth and Mercury Rev in the mix, but then it begins to elude me. Could they have been fans of the few brilliant recordings put out by Pitchblende in the early 90s? Could they have listened to that two-song Slint EP as much as I have? Surely, theyíve heard Phleg Campís Ya Red Fair Scratch and a few records by Johnboy, but could they have possibly gotten their hands on a copy of that first Girls Against Boys EP? They must have, since GVSB co-conspirator Eli Janney helped out with mixing duties on this record.

But Stereobate is far more than the sum of these somewhat obscure influences. Theyíre noisy, no doubt about it, and they definitely eschew conventional song structures, but Stereobate are also big fans of melody, beauty, and the odd moment of silence. They take an anti-rock stance, but are not entirely averse to using rock conventions to further their cause (the chorus of "Here, Bass", the most accessible track, is decidedly rockiní). These gentlemen are reverb addicts, but are not given to stoned freak-out jams like other pedalheads. They are a paradox; an enigma wrapped in a shiny jewel case and stomped on with steel-toed Chuck Taylors.

Donít be afraid of Stereobate. The sequence of tracks on Selling Out is carefully designed to ease the listener into the Stereobate world. "Letís Make A Foreign Film" quietly cleanses your audio equipment, your ears, and your mind in preparation for the experience. "Here, Bass" is huge and unwieldy, but there is enough here that is familiar, so the uninitiated will not be entirely uncomfortable. "The French Letter" is a wonderfully Slinty instrumental with an almost classical composition. That may seem like a bit of a challenge, but Stereobate cool it off a bit with "When Radio Came", a track that uses the familiar verse/chorus/verse/bridge/chorus structure, at least as a starting point. "Jazz Is For Russians" is a quiet, unassuming instrumental platform for an extended recording of a rambling golf announcer. The recurring guitar riff of "Jerry Jones" comforts by reminding the careful listener of Eddie Cochranís "Summertime Blues". "Club Med" is another beautiful instrumental composition, with delightful moments of baroque counterpoint between the guitar and bass lines. Fans of Mercury Rev will feel quite at home inside the spacey-yet-rockin' weirdness of "T.L.T." By the time youíve reached the final track on the record, "False Porno Alarm", youíll be prepared for it. Itís a brilliant composition in two movements, the first noisy and the second just plain groovy. The track ends with a repeated vocal deadpan, the meaning of which, though unclear, makes some subconscious, subliminal sense in the wake of the preceding audio experience.

A word of warning about Selling Out In The Silent Era: you might not like it right away. After my first listen, I wrote, "interesting, but difficult listening." After a second listen, I revised that to, "interesting, difficult listening." On a third listen, I scratched that and wrote, "brilliant, delightful, thought-provoking." So my advice is to give this record some time. Be warned that this is music that will not be ignored. It will not politely take a supporting role as dinner music or as background for a metaphysical conversation about Ren and Stimpy, but it rewards attentive, active listening with an unparalleled aural experience. Embrace it, and it will embrace you.

-Eryc Eyl

Track Listing:

  1. Letís Make A Foreign Film!
  2. Here, Bass
  3. The French Letter
  4. When Radio Came
  5. Jazz Is For Russians
  6. Jerry Jones
  7. Club Med
  8. T.L.T.
  9. False Porno Alarm

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