After recently listening to the last song in which Stereolab broke new ground for themselves — "Space Moth," a chamber jazz-cum-lounge pop corker from Sound Dust that channels Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night's ambitions into an imminently more accessible context (yet still without a blatant hook) — I realized that the group had developed continental pop pick 'n' mix to the point that the form no longer yields much space for innovation or advance. As an experimental outfit, the 'Lab maxed out at the beginning of the decade, and they did it so beautifully that it's unlikely an avant-minded artist will be able to channel the same pool of influences and ideas into a boundary-pushing statement.
This isn't to say that sounding like Stereolab is a defeating prospect, however, as Finnish group TV-Resistori prove just the opposite on their second full-length. It'd be reductive to listen to Serkut Rakastaa Paremmin simply as an ode to the Gane/Sadier franchise, but the comparison is inescapable. Where TV-Resistori distance themselves from the 'Lab is in their rejection of all things kraut and drone: this album's mid-fi assault is instead a personable jumble of breezy guitar jangle, vintage organ rave-ups, schmaltzy MOR, and blustery garage riffage. In a sense, these cats are to Stereolab what Trail of Dead are to Sonic Youth — a no-frills refurbishment fit for mass consumption.
The first half of this album is damn near revelatory. For an instant, two decades' worth of indie-pop tropes say to hell with decreased marginal utility and get on like a house on fire. "Serkut Rakastaa Paremmin" kicks the record off promisingly, its beach blanket guitar and organ exuding slinky mod-rock cool one moment and flashing a toothy grin the next. Here the foursome channel the lived-in melodicism of The Concretes' self-titled album and add an exuberant, devil-may-care kick and a smidgeon of chaos. The camera cuts to the dancefloor for "Kontraposto," which pilfers from the DFA canon of NYC underground disco beats to great effect — imagine a debauched, decadent Go! Team. "Kerro Poika" and "J.O.V.H.M.L.S.O.A.M.O. (Love)" feature poignant moments in which their musical sugar rushes simmer down to near silence and leave the human voice exposed and vulnerable, reminding us of human frailty when we least expect it.
If all of those songs have the potential to woo back the most lecherous of prodigals to pop's charms, the tunes on the disc's backside will be hard-pressed to elicit even a shrug of the shoulders. They're competent enough, but the instrumentation weaves together too tightly, becoming a lulling blur of mere pleasantry. Reckless abandon, gusty emoting, and all other forms of chance-taking are replaced by craft — not a bad move in principle, but one the band's hooks and structures aren't hardy enough to finesse. When they corral their gleefulness and assume a more workmanlike pose, TV-Resistori draw the most attention to the gap between their music and that of their acclaimed peers and predecessors.
1. Serkut Rakastaa Paremmin
3. Odotan Viimeista Hidasta
4. Kerro Poika
5. J.O.V.H.M.L.S.O.A.M.O. (Love)
6. Sheikki Sheikki
7. Numerot On
8. Meidan Puollella
9. Kolme Kertaa Paivassa
10. Oon Pahoilaan, Sen Lupaan
11. Ratsasta Mun Ponilla
12. Viimeinen Hidas