Emperor Tomato Ketchup (album)

Emperor Tomato Ketchup is the fourth studio album by English-French rock band Stereolab. It was released on 18 March 1996 and was issued by Duophonic Records and Elektra Records.

Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Studio album by
Released18 March 1996 (1996-03-18)
Stereolab chronology
Cybele's Reverie
Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Singles from Emperor Tomato Ketchup
  1. "Cybele's Reverie"
    Released: 19 February 1996
  2. "Metronomic Underground"
    Released: 2 December 1996

The album is named after the 1971 experimental film Emperor Tomato Ketchup by Japanese author and director Shūji Terayama.[3]

Composition and recording Edit

On Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Stereolab experimented with composing songs around looped sounds instead of traditional riffs.[4] Critic Tom Moon found the band's compositional approach reminiscent of hip hop and electronica music, with loops being layered into "richly textured collages".[2]

Guitarist Tim Gane remarked that the shift in style from previous releases emerged from a year-long bout of writer's block, where the band felt they were "drifting about in a musical landscape that wasn't inspiring or particularly exciting. With nothing on the horizon, everything we tried out seemed to be a dead end".[5] The group began working on a cover of the Godz' "ABC" for a tribute album. The challenge of covering a song that was essentially a free improvisation proved to be invigorating: Gane adapted four notes from the track and looped them, providing the basis for an early take on the song "Percolator". This reliance on loops rather than their earlier drone-based approach provided the blueprint for much of the album's direction.[5] The recording sessions for Emperor Tomato Ketchup were split between working with John McEntire in Chicago and Paul Tipler in London.

Release Edit

Emperor Tomato Ketchup was released on 18 March 1996 in the United Kingdom by Duophonic Records,[6] and on 9 April 1996 in the United States by Elektra Records.[7] The artwork for the album was inspired by the LP cover sleeve of a 1964 recording of composer Béla Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra by the Bamberg Symphony conducted by Heinrich Hollreiser.[8]

Preceding the album's release, the track "Cybele's Reverie" was issued as a single (on 7" vinyl) and as an EP (on CD and 10" vinyl) on 19 February 1996.[9] A second single, "Metronomic Underground", was released on 2 December 1996.[10] "The Noise of Carpet" was also promoted as a single to radio outlets in the United States.[7][11]

AllMusic writer Heather Phares cites Emperor Tomato Ketchup as "Stereolab's greatest success to date".[12] In the US, the album was especially successful on college radio,[12] and by August 1997, the album had sold over 46,000 units in the country, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[13]

A remastered and expanded edition of Emperor Tomato Ketchup was released by Duophonic and Warp on 13 September 2019.[14]

Critical reception and legacy Edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [15]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[16]
The Guardian     [17]
Mojo     [18]
Record Collector     [20]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [21]
The Village VoiceA−[23]

On its release, Emperor Tomato Ketchup earned positive reviews from music critics.[12]

In 2004's The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Roni Sarig wrote that Stereolab created their "most well-rounded, confident, and accomplished statement" with Emperor Tomato Ketchup, forgoing their earlier lo-fi aesthetic and crafting "an impeccably produced, creatively mixed collection that's a joy to behold in its full high-fidelity glory."[21] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic stated that "Stereolab were poised for a breakthrough" with Emperor Tomato Ketchup given both their growing influence on alternative rock and their increasingly accessible musical direction.[15] He noted that the album saw the band composing hookier songs while incorporating "more avant-garde and experimental influences", resulting in it being their "most complex, multi-layered record."[15] Record Collector's Oregano Rathbone likewise said that Emperor Tomato Ketchup contained "defining examples of Stereolab's rewardingly oxymoronic tendencies".[20]

Emperor Tomato Ketchup has appeared in numerous lists of the greatest albums. Spin named it the 46th best album of the 1990s.[24] It was ranked 51st on Pitchfork's list of the decade's best albums, with staff writer Brent DiCrescenzo praising it as Stereolab's "most definitive and recommended statement" and recalling that it "sounded wholly futuristic and alien" at the time of its release.[25] Tom Moon included Emperor Tomato Ketchup in his book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die (2008),[2] and it was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[26]

Track listing Edit

All tracks are written by Tim Gane and Lætitia Sadier, except where noted

1."Metronomic Underground" 7:55
2."Cybele's Reverie" 4:42
4."Les Yper-Sound" 4:05
5."Spark Plug" 2:29
6."OLV 26" 5:42
7."The Noise of Carpet" 3:05
8."Tomorrow Is Already Here" 4:56
9."Emperor Tomato Ketchup" 4:37
10."Monstre Sacre" 3:44
11."Motoroller Scalatron" 3:48
12."Slow Fast Hazel" 3:53
13."Anonymous Collective" 4:32
Total length:57:15
Japanese edition bonus track
Total length:63:00
2019 expanded edition bonus disc[27]
1."Freestyle Dumpling"3:57
2."Noise of Carpet" (original mix)3:07
3."Old Lungs"8:00
4."Percolator" (original mix)4:54
5."Cybele's Reverie" (demo)2:06
6."Spark Plug" (demo)1:29
7."Spinal Column" (demo)0:54
8."Emperor Tomato Ketchup" (demo)2:14
9."Les Yper-Sound" (demo)0:53
10."Metronomic Underground" (demo)2:49
11."Percolator" (demo)1:00
12."Tomorrow Is Already Here" (demo)2:35
13."Brigitte" (demo)3:08
14."Motoroller Scalatron" (demo)1:48
15."Anonymous Collective" (demo)2:20
Total length:41:14

Personnel Edit

Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.[28]


Additional musicians

  • Ray Dickarty – alto saxophone on "Percolator"
  • Mandy Drummond – strings
  • Meg Gates – strings
  • Sally Herbert – strings
  • Marcus Holdaway – strings
  • John McEntire – analogue synthesizer, electronics, maracas, tambourine, vibraphone and guitar on "Tomorrow Is Already Here"
  • Sean O'HaganWurlitzer piano, Vox organ, vibraphone, string arrangements


  • John McEntire – production, engineering, mixing
  • Stereolab (credited as "The Groop") – production, mixing
  • Paul Tipler – production, engineering, mixing

Charts Edit

Chart (1996) Peak
European Top 100 Albums (Music & Media)[29] 61
Scottish Albums (OCC)[30] 50
UK Albums (OCC)[31] 27
UK Independent Albums (OCC)[32] 5
US Heatseekers Albums (Billboard)[33] 27
Chart (2019) Peak
Scottish Albums (OCC)[34] 29
US Top Album Sales (Billboard)[35] 67

References Edit

  1. ^ "Stereolab: Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night (Elektra)". OC Weekly. 16 September 1999. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Moon, Tom (2008). "Life in a Blender: Emperor Tomato Ketchup – Stereolab". 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing. pp. 739–740. ISBN 978-0-7611-3963-8. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  3. ^ a b Dorris, Jesse (18 July 2019). "Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup". Pitchfork. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  4. ^ Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (4 September 2019). "Stereolab: 'There was craziness in getting lost and dizzy'". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  5. ^ a b Emperor Tomato Ketchup [Expanded Edition]. Stereolab. Duophonic Ultra High Frequency Disks. 2019. D-UHF-D11R.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  6. ^ "New Releases: Albums" (PDF). Music Week. 16 March 1996. pp. 34–35. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  7. ^ a b Wolk, Douglas (April 1996). "Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup". CMJ New Music Monthly. No. 32. p. 13. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  8. ^ Foster, John (31 July 2019). "The evolution of Stereolab's analogue-inspired record sleeves". The Vinyl Factory. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  9. ^ "New Releases: Singles" (PDF). Music Week. 17 February 1996. p. 31. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  10. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Metronomic Underground – Stereolab". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  11. ^ The Noise of Carpet (press advertisement). Elektra Records. 1996. Archived from the original on 24 January 2021. Retrieved 25 January 2021.{{cite AV media}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ a b c Phares, Heather. "Stereolab". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  13. ^ Reece, Doug (23 August 1997). "Elektra Connects Stereolab's 'Dots' With Larger Base". Billboard. Vol. 109, no. 34. pp. 16–17. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  14. ^ "Part II Expanded & Remastered Album Reissues". Warp. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  15. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Emperor Tomato Ketchup – Stereolab". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  16. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon (12 April 1996). "Emperor Tomato Ketchup". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 22 December 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  17. ^ Romney, Jonathan (22 March 1996). "Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup (Duophonic)". The Guardian.
  18. ^ Segal, Victoria (December 2019). "Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup". Mojo. No. 313. p. 105.
  19. ^ "Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup". NME. 16 March 1996. p. 49.
  20. ^ a b Rathbone, Oregano (October 2019). "Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup". Record Collector. No. 497. p. 106.
  21. ^ a b Sarig, Roni (2004). "Stereolab". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 779–781. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  22. ^ Pattison, Louis (October 2019). "Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup / Dots and Loops / Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night". Uncut. No. 269. p. 50.
  23. ^ Christgau, Robert (23 July 1996). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  24. ^ Wolk, Douglas (September 1999). "The 90 Greatest Albums of the '90s – 46. Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup". Spin. Vol. 15, no. 9. p. 142. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  25. ^ "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s". Pitchfork. 17 November 2003. p. 5. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  26. ^ Chow, Jason (2006). "Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup". In Dimery, Robert (ed.). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Universe Publishing. p. 775. ISBN 978-0-7893-1371-3.
  27. ^ "Stereolab – Emperor Tomato Ketchup (Expanded Edition)". Duophonic Ultra High Frequency Disks. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  28. ^ Emperor Tomato Ketchup (liner notes). Stereolab. Duophonic Records. 1996. D-UHF-CD11.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  29. ^ "European Top 100 Albums" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 13, no. 14. 6 April 1996. p. 21. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  30. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  31. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  32. ^ "Independent Albums" (PDF). Music Week. 6 April 1996. p. 30. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  33. ^ "Stereolab Chart History (Heatseekers Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  34. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  35. ^ "Stereolab Chart History (Top Album Sales)". Billboard. Retrieved 1 June 2020.

External links Edit