I miss Stereolab. They seemed so...relaxed is the best word I can come up with. I don't know if they really were or not, but they always struck me as a bunch of people I'd want to spend time with.
Apart from the fact that Laetitia Sadier is utterly beautiful both to look at and to listen to, there's something carefree about their music. It has the playfulness of a child alongside the energy of youth and a little mature wistfulness. When they chose to, they could produce a very powerful sound but, wisely, they used this sparingly. Unashamedly obscure and with a sly dose of surrealism even occasionally throwing in some political comment, they struck me as having found a great balance between doing things which were both intersting and fun.
I should admit that when I first heard them, I thought them inconsequential and pretentious, but that was just me being afraid of those things in myself and wanting to avoid anything which might contribute to what I thought at the time was self-indulgence rather than self-expression. Perhaps I grew in confidence or just don't care any more about such things - they're judgements other people will make if they wish to do so.
I saw Stereolab live several times. Like most bands, there was an energy in their performance which never quite made it onto the records. Inevitably wished I was up there on stage with them (preferably quite near Laetitia). That happens quite a lot to me but it was only Stereolab and Tindersticks where I thought I'd actually fit in with what they were doing. The rest of the time it was just my normal frustration of wanting to play in the sandpit with the other musicians. They had little or no stage presence but I rather like that: I don't mean that I dislike bands who give a theatrical performance, but it's good that there are some who are happy to remain anonymous musicians. But then I was a bass player, so you'd expect me to have that kind of attitude.
When Mary Hansen died in 2002, I was a little surprised at feeling genuine sympathy for this group of people who I don't actually know* but who I'd become quite fond of for having carved out their own way of doing things and inspiring me to relax my attitudes. That's not meant to sound as trite as it probably does, I guess for me it was a particularly horrible intrusion of reality onto what had seemed a pleasant little corner of the world.
And now, they seem to have called it a day. It had to come eventually, I guess I just hoped it wouldn't be quite yet.
* I did once eat a burger in a restaurant in Liverpool while Tim Gaine was sitting at the table opposite. But that was as far as any personal interaction ever went.