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.
- Letís Make A Foreign Film!
- Here, Bass
- The French Letter
- When Radio Came
- Jazz Is For Russians
- Jerry Jones
- Club Med
- False Porno Alarm
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