I have a few Stereolab records in my collection: Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, ABC Music - The Radio 1 Sessions and Refried Ectoplasm. I've always liked their music, but I don't listen to them as often as other acts. Oftentimes I feel hypnotized by their simple and repetitive guitar/keyboard lines. And for the longest time, I never even knew what they were saying in their songs. It only was until I heard the Editors' cover version of "French Disko" that I realized what was really being said.
I've never read Karl Marx, but after years of seeing 'Marxist' mentions in write-ups on Stereolab, I now see a connection. Editors' vocalist Tom Smith makes the pseudo-Marxist lyrics clear: "Though this world's essentially an upset place to be living in/It doesn't call for total withdrawal/I've been told it's a fact of life, men have to kill one another/Well I say there are still things worth fighting for" I don't know if these lines are directly inspired by Marx, but I find them inspiring regardless. Amazing what a cover song can do.
Also interesting, if not a little funny, is understand what is said in the chorus. I always thought the line was "Loud as a storm." Well, it's actually "La Resistance!" Oops. I couldn't help it: even now, I still can't really understood what Lætitia Sadier says.
For a lot of artists (from Deftones to the Cocteau Twins to My Bloody Valentine), the lead vocals are used more as a background instrument than a lead instrument. I don't think that's a bad thing, but when there are no lyrics printed, it's a pure crapshoot with trying to comprehend what is being said. Maybe that's the point. Maybe the lyrics are supposed to ambiguous.
I'm not somebody who wants all lyrics to be as plain and clear as rain. However, it's nice when a cover can translate a clearer message. Like a fellow friend of mine says when he refers to "Mr. Tambourine Man:" "Bob Dylan wrote it, the Byrds translated it into English."