-- By Otis Hart, NPR Music
Laetitia Sadier is part of the 99 percent. Yes, Laetitia Sadier, the lead singer of Stereolab. I know it's hard to believe, but apparently the members of the world's greatest Kraut-lounge act didn't become outrageously rich during their two-decade organ riff. The 'Lab called it quits in 2009, but its mellifluous French frontwoman is still going strong, and on Silencio, she offers up an honest-to-god protest album.
Not everything on Silencio (out July 24 on Drag City Records) is inspired by Adbusters, but it's impossible to not catch Sadier's drift on songs like "The Rule Of The Game," "Auscultation In The Nation" and "There Is A Price To Pay for Freedom (And It Isn't Security)." (And before we get any further, it's luh-TISH-uh sah-dee-AY.) Written in the shadow of a Eurozone meltdown, Sadier's lyrics hit harder than the IMF's bail-out restrictions. On opener "The Rule of the Game," Sadier lays it out straight: "The ruling class / neglects again responsibility / over-indulged children / drawn to cruel games / pointless pleasures / impulsive reflexes / a group of assassins." It gets straighter still on "Auscultation in the Nation": "Rating agencies / financial markets / and the G20s / but who are these people? / and why on earth do we care about their opinion? / What do we care about their self-proclaimed authorities?"
The rest of Silencio is a bit more subtle in comparison (how could it not be?). When she's not shouting on her soapbox, Sadier equates listening and learning as contemporary forms of civil disobedience. She ends the album with extended silence, and what first appeared to be one of those 1990s "bonus track" scenarios is actually a chance to share the epiphany she experience one day in the south of France. "Here [is] an invitation to sample some silence in this St. Blaise church ... Listen. Listen how resonant with truth silence is."
For all its instances of speaking truth to power, Silencio wouldn't resonate if the music didn't hold up its part of the bargain. Sadier was never one for explicit melodies, but the velvet walls of sound constructed by her crack group of session players pulsate in place. More than once, I was reminded of Alain Goraguer's otherwordly soundtrack to La Planète Sauvage.
Whether you agree with Sadier or think she's a tad naïve, you have to admit that most musicians these days don't get their hands this dirty. For whatever reason, protest songs are few and far between, and it's noteworthy when an artist attempts to mix pop and politics. I know the musical establishment just spent a week feting Woody Guthrie's ghost – and deservedly so, the man's guitar killed fascists, after all – but if you've still got an itch to fight the man, Silencio carries a big stick.
Stream Silencio from Monday, July 16th through July 23rd.