29 May 2005

But who is Jenny Ondioline?

So, while we were on vacation this week (pics of the camping trip coming soon) we stopped at the infamous Wuxtry Records in Athens, GA, former employer of some members of great bands such as R.E.M. and the Olivia Tremor Control. (There's also a Wuxtry here in ATL that I hit a little more frequently.)

Not seeing any cool local stuff that caught my interest, I decided to pick up the Stereolab box-set thingy of all their singles and EPs called Oscillons From The Anti-Sun, and holy crap, is it AWESOME. About one song out of every six is a familiar album track, but the rest is B-side, alternate-version heaven.

It's also 3 CDs (36 tracks by my count) and a DVD of all their videos and several UK TV appearances, for about $22 US, so you gotta love that.

My favorite thing comes on the third CD... an "alternate version" of one of their earliest singles, "Jenny Ondioline." This was the song that originally made me a Stereolab fan; on their 1993 album Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements, it was an 18-minute drone/pop masterpiece... part Velvet Undergound, part spacey-lounge music, part French New Wave, and mostly indescribable to anyone who couldn't understand how an 18-minute song could be "pop."

I used to think of it as sounding a little bit like a happier version of Kraftwerk's "Autobahn." The verses ramble along like a car buzzing down a sunny, perfectly-landscaped highway, while the choruses, with their long "OOOOOOOOHHHH-aaaaahhhhh..." from the two female members of the band, sound like trucks passing by on the other side of the road. The long album version takes a lot of musical detours, of course, but the 4-minute single version condenses this rhythm perfectly. BTW, Kraftwerk did a single version of "Autobahn" as well, so the comparison holds water.

Of course, once you listen to the lyrics (in Latitia Sadler's heavy French accent, always one of Stereolab's selling points) you realize the song has some typically Stereolab-ish political mood-making in mind:

I don't care if the fascists have to win
I don't care democracy's being fucked
I don't care socialism's full of sin
The unbeatable system engenders rot
That what is exciting
Is a challenge as the new nation
but the tensions have to be creative with some time
I don't think the lyrics had anything to do with politics in 1993... I think the band was playing with the idea of future politics, just like they play with the idea of future everything.


OK, so back to this great alternate version. I'm not a musician, so I can't tell you everything that's going on here, but this version seems to be more guitar-ish and less electronic, while Sadler's voice has been put through some kind of filter to give it a slightly harsh, distorted edge. It's probably just a different mix, but man, it is GREAT. And until I get a C&D letter from Stereolab's lawyers, or a bandwidth nasty-gram from my web provider, I've stashed the song here in Windows Media format (both because it's smaller, and because that's what I use in my MP3 player so I already had it ripped that way).

I can't believe a 12-year-old song (that I heard 12 years ago) is kicking my butt all over again, but it is... those of y'all who are Stereolab fans, enjoy, and those who weren't before, I bet you will be soon. ;)


Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

It's funny; yesterday I _almost_ got a cheap copy of "Sound Dust" (went to a record store, looking for a CD by a band I just saw -- IQU, a local sorta dance band that has a thereminist who actually is _really good_ at the theremin, instead of just getting sounds out (like how I play, heh) -- if I ever get the CD, I'll share some stuff with you -- but anyway, they had a cheapo bin of new CDs for ~5.99-7.99. I almost got a copy of Flaming Lips' _Transmissions from the Satellite Heart_ and that one.) I've heard it before, and I did like it, but I love the Chris Morris track on there ("Nothing To Do With Me"). I would have got it, but I've figured I should be saving my money.

Although, I did pick up a 99 cent Stan Ridgway album (Partyball), and the new Limited Edition Belle & Sebastian comp, though I really shouldn't have, but it was only 14 bucks for the 2 CD ltd. ed. one, which normally seems to go for 22 bucks. So... yeah. Although, there's very little in the way of Bonus Stuff. I'm not sure what the difference between it and the normal version is. And as such I'm kinda kicking myself a bit, but live and learn, I guess.

8:28 PM, May 29, 2005  
Blogger Lee H. said...

"Sound Dust" is probably the best Stereolab album of all, in case you wondered. :)

I know IQU! I have one of their albums, and saw 'em a few years back when the Flaming Lips toured with them, Robyn Hitchcock, and Sebadoh. That was the tour where they passed out Walkmans and did trippy stereo-mixing stuff to the music as it was played... we took a dear, sweet, but somewhat rednecky friend with us to that show, and I think I heard the moment when his brain exploded. :D (He later bought a few Robyn Hitchcock CDs, so apparently it was a GOOD kind of mindfuck for him.)

I didn't buy that B&S comp because this is a situation where I actually have EVERY song on it already. Belle & Sebastian's EPs have always been better than their albums, IMO.

And BTW... you play the theremin?? I am in awe. :D

10:00 PM, May 29, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

Yeah -- I've got all the B&S EPs too, actually, even the "This Is Just A Modern Rock Song" import one... so, yeah, I don't know why I got it. I am stupid in that way. I could see it if I were going to sell off the original EPs to save space or something, but I probably won't do that, either, so... yeah.

And, I don't so much _play_ the theremin as get random, cool noises out of it (I kinda enjoy making it sound like record-scratching), but it's really cool to see someone actually play it, like get melodies and such out. A friend of mine can actually do pretty well with my theremin, but he's one of those pretty hardcore music guys who can play just about anything.

4:01 AM, May 30, 2005  

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