Digitization Finds #05 — Stereolab’s “Emperor Tomato Ketchup”

An album of the future, from the past, and especially relevant to the modern day.

When average people (i.e. not music historians or individuals with expansive knowledge of music outside of the mainstream) consider music of the nineties, gangsta rap, r&b, pop, grunge, and a few metal and metal-derivative acts. Most of it hasn’t aged terribly well, especially the singles. If you want to argue in the defense of Hootie & the Blowfish, Skee-Lo, Milli Vanilli, Semisonic, Bush, Creed, and others, feel free. How many people actively listen to Skee-Lo nowadays, though?

Stereolab is one of many bands on the fringe of the mainstream, likely part of what would be commonly referred to as “indie music” in the 2000s-onward. Their albums were moderately successful and quite influential but never quite achieved mainstream recognition.

Stereolab is definitely not a metal or grunge band. Alternative? Not really. Not really an electronica group either. Their sound is quite unique. Lots of electronic samples and instruments in the background. Two female vocalists who sing in English and French — sometimes playing off of each other singing in different languages than the other. Most of the tracks have a minimalist feel to them, yet there’s typically enough depth in both the composition and writing to feel coherent and whole.

The lyrics may turn off some listeners in this political climate. Many of the songs are partially in French, and the messages are seemingly in-line with the anti-authoritarian line of European socialism — -which required multiple listens and a bit of research for me to come to that conclusion. The explicitly political tracks are fairly universal, including this part of Les Yper Sounds:

You go in that team
I go on this team0
Divide everything
A flag or a number
Make ’em opposites
So there’s a reason
Stigmatization
Okay, now we can fight
Divide everything
Just put it all flat
Justification
Don’t think now, you just fight

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s disappointing revolutionary albums like this are never taken seriously by the mainstream for it’s message. The guitars and multiple synthesizers, samples, and the frequent duets create a beautiful album with a message worth hearing. Definitely check it out!

Overall Rankings

  1. Tori Amos — “Little Earthquakes” (1992)
  2. Tom Waits — “Real Gone”(2004)
  3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — “Murder Ballads” (1996)
  4. Sufjan Stevens — “Illinois” (2005)
  5. Aesop Rock — “Labor Days” (2001)
  6. Leonard Cohen — “You Want it Darker” (2016)
  7. Stereolab — “Emperor Tomato Ketchup” (1996)
  8. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — “Ghosteen” (2019)
  9. LCD Soundsystem — “Sound of Silver” (2007)

--

--

--

We are a game preservationist, archivist, design and writing collective, focusing on multiplayer and massively multiplayer games. Also music preservation!

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

2020: What the African Giant Must Do

20 Best New Songs in April for Your Springtime Playlist

Jamiroquai just dropped a new tune and nobody could argue he’s not a badman.

Rest In Peace DMX

New post on The Gate’s Fanpage.

Hollywood Torrent: Music’s broken system, ‘The Irishman’ is a hit

Panay Mulu | Breaking Loose from Bodily Constraints With A Soul Moving Freely between Spiritual…

Sibling Duo Henley Releases “Alone Tonight”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Aun Collective

Aun Collective

We are a game preservationist, archivist, design and writing collective, focusing on multiplayer and massively multiplayer games. Also music preservation!

More from Medium

NBA News & Fantasy Basketball Notes 12/25

William Carroll’s Distant Close-Up — Week 1

The 120 Second Podcast for Missions Everyday

The Weeknd: Dawn FM — Album Review