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Switched On

Stereolab

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Album Review

Switched On collects Stereolab's earliest singles, capturing the group's hypnotic, driving sound in its infancy. Though they're more guitar-driven and rock-oriented than the band's later work, tracks like "Super-Electric" and "Au Grand Jour" prove that Stereolab's basic style — Krautrock lock-grooves, bubbling analog synths, fuzzed-out guitars, and angelic vocals — arrived fully formed. "Doubt" and "Brittle" are among the group's most vibrant pop songs, while the eight-minute "Contact" is a warm-up for the epics the band would include on albums like Transient Random Noise-Bursts With Announcements. Reflective pieces like "The Way Will Be Opening" and "High Expectation" show off Laetitia Sadier's coolly sophisticated, Nico-meets-Francoise Hardy vocals, while "The Light That Will Cease to Fail" manages to be poppy, kinetic, and bittersweet all at once. Though the group would go on to make even more impressive albums, the newness of Stereolab's sound is palpable on Switched On, giving the songs an added vitality. Obviously, it's an impressive debut, but it's captivating in its own right.

Biography

Formed: 1991 in London, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Combining an inclination for melodic '60s pop with an art rock aesthetic borrowed from Krautrock bands like Faust and Neu!, Stereolab were one of the most influential alternative bands of the '90s. Led by Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier, Stereolab either legitimized forms of music that were on the fringe of rock, or brought attention to strands of pop music — bossa nova, lounge-pop, movie soundtracks — that were traditionally banished from the rock lineage. The group's trademark sound —...
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