Stereolab: French Disco

From the single Jenny Ondioline (1993). Also appears on the Oscillons from the Anti-Sun box set (2005).

french disco at amazon french disco

For nearly a decade now, Stereolab has been a consistent “A list” band in my library, but I’ve, more of than not, been more disposed toward the groop’s laid-back, lounge-infused work. The band’s early, fuzz-laden krautrock-inspired recordings generally don’t strike me as much (though I do enjoy krautrock as a rule). While mid-career songs like Spacemoth, The Free Design and Miss Modular are compellingly splendid, crisp, head-bobbing grooves, the lo-fi droning simplicity of earlier songs like Anapromorph and Enivrez-Vous tend to grate at my ears.

As a result, I’ve tended to spend less time exploring the early stages of the groop’s development. However, this song, French Disco, and in particular, this version, is a hard diamond in the spacey milieu of the band’s early works. It breaks two of the band’s early conventions, and that makes it especially appealing. First, it’s uptempo and bombastic and completely unlike anything the band recorded in that era. Second, it rocks! And Stereolab doesn’t do rock; it’s not their thing. But if they wanted to, they’d obviously be good at it.

It’s too bad this version was stuffed as a b-side onto a single of which there were only a few thousand copies pressed. Overall, it’s a highly regarded song in the catalog and I’m sure many fans would have loved to have heard it before the 2005 box set was released.

I must admit some confusion over the song though. Variants of it appear with Disco spelled with a ‘K’ (French Disko). That version looks like it’s the ‘main version’ and it appeared as its own 7″ single i thinkÔÇôstereolab’s catalog can get pretty confusing as well as on the Refried Ectoplasm comp and runs about 3:35. This recording is about 4:26 and sounds like a different studio recording with extended outro.

Both recordings are good, but I prefer this one.

What I Love: Laetitia Sadier’s voice, the tempo, the haunted house intro organ and the explosive (but oh-so-brief) chorus.

6 thoughts on “Stereolab: French Disco

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly matey. This is one of the (tunes that pops in my head and won’t leave for ages until I play it) songs that just go on and on. I was really sad when she died and left us so soon in this lifetime.


    tunequest Reply:

    Mary’s sudden and unexpected death was quite the shock. Her contributions to the groop were subtle, but profound. I for one, am glad though that Stereolab decided to persevere and continue churning out great songs.

    As for this song, I’m with you. I hear it once and I’m compelled to listen to it one more time. For a different take on it though, check out the cover by Editors. It more closely resembles the Refried Ectoplasm version, though the lyrics are much more emphasized.


  2. I think this is my favourite tune at the minute. I’ve been back to this page several times since to listen to this version. (sorry about the bandwidth) — I’ll have to get it.
    What I especially like ISN’T what TuneQuest likes – more like the opposite in fact. I like the long drones with highlighted notes, Mary’s minimalist harmonies and the moog noises ranging from near overwhelming distortion to subliminal ear candy.



  3. I forgot to mention; the tension comes from the bass guitar playing “stress” notes away from the main tuning, but different on nearly every stanza.

    ..just another excuse to listen really.


  4. I`d heard the alternative longer version on a tape someone made up for me years ago. I was a bit miffed when I ordered Refried Ectoplasm and found the version on that CD to be different. Where can I find the `real` version I wonder!


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