A quarter century of avant eroticism with Stereolab’s classic Elektra debut
By the time I had ever heard Stereolab’s seemingly sensual “Pack Yr Romantic Mind,” I had developed a deep distrust for romance, but I packed it with me, anyway. Here I was again, nervously shifting around on a grey modular loveseat waiting for my date to come back from his stereo.
Laetitia Sadier’s soft voice sang out: “The greater is the beauty/the profounder is the stain…” lyrics lifted from the writings of Georges Bataille about the cardinal importance of beauty and its relationship to eroticism: desire comes from the “despoiling” of beauty.
Sadier continued: “Significant of the forbidden/transgressed in eroticism,” but the insistence of this repeated refrain loses all meaning over the duration of the song and mocks the overt sensualism of the ideas it’s putting forth. Even the song’s sampling of Bert Kaempfert’s “Strangers in the Night” is a perverse joke, offered up as nothing more than an outdated specimen to be re-examined; what were the chances two strangers would be sharing love before the night was through? We’d only known each other for a few hours, but I knew my date was definitely wondering the same.
Sadier’s lyrics, in contrast to her seductive vocals, promised nothing. I followed suit. When my date came back to the couch, he deliberately sat too close to me and put his hand on my thigh. I moved further away and crossed my legs – that way nothing could be “spoiled.” I had a feeling I would probably remember this album better than this guy.
I was certainly right about that. It’s been 25 years since this album’s release, and the English-French band’s fondness for personal and political messaging in Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements still manages to affect and achieves an effervescent, effortless cool from start to finish. When I eventually listened to the rest of the album, I was pleased to find that every song was as complex and interesting as “Pack Yr Romantic Mind.”
Frontman Tim Gane said that making the album was “pure hell” for him and didn’t come out the way he had hoped, but it’s hard to say what Gane was ultimately striving for — songs like Jenny Ondioline (an 18 minute love song for artists working in right-wing regimes, named after Georges Jenny’s electronic keyboard) impossibly made the UK charts despite all of its obscure references and gave the band some much needed recognition.
For Stereolab fans, this album also features many of the signature elements that make their music so instantly recognizable today; the utilization of the balanced, Krautrock inspired motorik beats on the opener, “Tone Burst,” the sing-song stylings of Mary Hansen and Laetitia Sadier on the lovely “Lock-Groove Lullaby,” and the ever-present sound of Vox organs and Moog synthesizers on…well, everything!
You can always listen to Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements alone…or with a friend!