At its peak, Stereolab was among the most distinctive combos on the planet. Throughout a succession of discs capped by 1996's unimpeachable Emperor Tomato Ketchup, the act, led by multi-instrumentalist Tim Gane and beguiling French-born singer Laetitia Sadier, offered up an irresistible blend of electro-dabblings, twisted kitsch and left-wing ideology. But Gane and company stuck to this formula too zealously in succeeding years, resulting in returns that were slowly diminishing even before the tragic 2002 death of co-vocalist Mary Hansen. On the surface, Fab Four Suture, which collects various vinyl singles issued in recent months, represents more of the same. Take "Interlock," an arty groove punctuated by simulated brass and Sadier lines such as "What good is all this knowledge we've acquired/In the face of deep nihilism?" However, tracks like "Excursions Into 'Oh, A-Oh,'" which moves from finger-poppin' to aggressive in a few short, entrancing minutes, exhibit some of the old spark, and even the lesser cuts have their moments. Stereolab, accompanied here by Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt, isn't mixing up much that's new, but at least its old recipes no longer taste quite so stale.
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