Stereolab / Mars Audiac Quintet
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Mars Audiac Quintet saw Stereolab beginning to shed their experimental tendencies in favor of a post-modern space-age pop. The album exudes a sophisticated cool and catchiness that helped them gain new fans while straddling the line between their experimental-rock brethren and the ascending class of pre-millennial British pop. It’s also the album that put them on the A-list of underground rock bands. Arguably the band’s most accessible album, Mars Audiac Quintet not only features gentler textures than any of its predecessors, but also more upbeat and hooky songs such as “Ping Pong” (the first Stereolab song to receive widespread video and alt radio airplay) and “L’Enfer Des Formes,” not to mention groove-dominated tracks like “Outer Accelerator” and “Transona Five.” The album is layered with a sensual and beguiling vibe, bringing the allure of lead vocalist Laetitia Sadier to the forefront. The hints of exotica and lounge music on Transient Random-Noise Burst With Announcements are now fully explored on the mellow, marimba-driven album closer “Fiery Yellow” (featuring major contributions from The High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan). The bubblegum pop of “Wow and Flutter” exhibits the earliest example of the band’s Krautrock stylings being overpowered by an ingratiating melody. Mars Audiac Quintet is one of Stereolab’s most complete attempts at bridging experimental rock and retro-pop. Future releases were at times more cerebral or more poppy, but rarely again were the two simultaneously so perfectly realized.