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Adventures in Stereo 

Monomania (Bobsled)

Wednesday, Sep 20 2000
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Adventures in Stereo's first two EPs were like a big why-hasn't-anyone-thought-of-that slap upside the head. The Scottish trio of Simon Dine, Jim Beattie, and Judith Boyle crafted near-perfect, two-minute-or-shorter pop songs by sampling obscure '60s soul and R&B riffs. There were no choruses, no solos, no flourishes; just endlessly looping guitar riffs and sunny, girl-group vocals.

Dine, who was responsible for much of the samples, soon quit the band. In 1997, both he and Beattie/Boyle released separate Adventures in Stereo full-lengths; to add to the confusion, the artwork for the two albums was remarkably similar even though they were on different labels. Eventually, Dine named his project Noonday Underground, while Beattie and Boyle stuck with the original moniker and released 1998's Alternative Stereo Sounds.

That album saw the band -- now a five-piece -- attempting to re-create its early, electronically composed sound with live instruments. Both Boyle and Beattie had had previous band experience: Beattie was a founding member of Primal Scream back before the band went ravey, and Boyle had joined him in the short-lived fuzz-pop group Spirea X. Still, Alternative Stereo Sounds was rather tentative in its efforts to place Brian Wilson within Glaswegian indie pop.

Monomania is a different story. Whereas Boyle's limited vocal range hindered the last album, she now tries out a variety of approaches: getting soulful on "When Love Comes In," double-tracking harmonies on "Airkiss," and copping a '50s ballad style on "We Will Stand." It also doesn't hurt that, while the band has grown to a sextet, its songs are more stripped down than ever. Beattie has discovered minimalism, and it really suits him.

The live sample aesthetic (repeat, repeat, repeat) is still in place, but now the songs differ greatly from each other. Partly, that's because the band utilizes banjos, flutes, organs, and melodica to craft hooks. Also, Beattie has learned that songs don't need to end right where they start, and that length needn't be equated with boredom. He's also discovered what labelmate Stereo Total already understands: Never underestimate the power of a cheesy keyboard.

For the album's first single, "International," Beattie swipes a melody from Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere." While the song's ironic intent is unclear -- referring to the band's fortunes, its circuitous song structures, a lover's wanderings, or all three -- one thing is certain: With Monomania, Adventures in Stereo has taken a giant step forward.

About The Author

Dan Strachota

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