Stereobate – Selling Out in the Silent Era

Stereobate
Selling Out in the Silent Era

Stereobate is apparently a trio from the New York City area that uses a UK-based website and claims, in their own press materials that, despite contrary rumors, Stereobate is not one man but actually a mustache. How’s that for confusing? Of course none of that matters a lick, because Stereobate could be a penguin, and you’d still want to buy this album.

Confused and concerned by the Stereobate songs on their split with The Distance Formula, I knew I wanted to hear more from the band. This is exactly what I want to hear. Actually, it’s two bands that I want to hear, each equally good. On one hand, Sterebate are a math-rock instrumental band, of which there seems to be many of, but their talent and unique song structures rule that style. On the other hand, they’re a post-Fugazi style rock band, with punk and hardcore roots and again a unique, refreshing style. They mix these two separate blends, usually in alternating songs but occasionally in the same song, and there they shine even more.

The intro track builds a kind of energetic frenzy that leads flawlessly into “Here, Bass,” a powerful, swirling, cacophonic rock track full of urgent math-rocky rhythms, driving guitars, and a unique, slightly Jawbox-y vocal style. Enter phase 2: the flowing, complex yet musically pleasing “The French Letter,” a Paul Newman-like instrumental number with hints of early Tristeza. “When Radio Came” is a more mellow, 7-minute rock track that reminds me at times of Modest Mouse, while “Jazz is for Russians” is another instrumental, this one shorter and more avant-garde, with some samples used.

Things continue to mix, with “Jerry Jones” being an edgy, rhythm-focused rock track, lead by some almost monotone sung/shouted vocals, and “Club Med” is quieter and much more melodic, although it builds to an energetic crescendo by its 7-minute ending. “T.L.T.” is a kind of moody Jawbox style song, and the closer, “False Porno Alarm,” is a noisy mess of guitars and samples and knob-twisting that hides a somber, ominous song beneath.

Perhaps my review made Stereobate sound schizophrenic, and perhaps they are. Certainly the quieter instrumentals differ from the louder post-hardcore style songs. But connecting all of these songs is a complex rhythm, a focus on slightly spacey guitars, and an urgency that most other bands just seem to be faking. I still prefer the more rocking tracks, as they are the most original contributions here, but the instrumental songs are a nice break, and together they make for one hell of an album.