Stereolab has garnered an excellent reputation in the rock
universe over the course of a 12-year career. Introducing and then
honing their futuristic space-pop on one stylish album after
another, the London-based collective has unquestionably deserved
the admiration it has received from college and art-rock audiences
alike.

Amita Madan

Even so, Stereolab are certainly celebrated more for the general
innovation of their sound rather than for any particular album or
song. Comfortingly atmospheric, their music is both intricate and
simple simultaneously. Blips and bleeps from synthesizers and horns
pepper repetitive rhythms that steadily cruise along. It’s
difficult not to appreciate the skill and creativity that permeate
each of their records, especially with a good pair of
headphones.

Stereolab’s eighth full-length release, Margerine
Eclipse
, finds the band on all-too familiar ground, creating
glowing music that is easier to appreciate than enjoy. Despite the
fact that this is Stereolab’s first album without late
vocalist and keyboardist Mary Hansen, this record seems to pick
right up where their last LP, the loungy Sound Dust, left
off.

While fascinating in general (like the band itself) and wondrous
at moments, Margerine simply fails to interest the listener
from start to finish. Each song begins to sound essentially the
same, with the delicate, yet sophisticated, voice of Laetitia
Sadier soaring above the band’s spacey licks and beats.

The highlights come right at the beginning of the album,
starting with the excellent “Vonal Declosion.” With
bouncy bass, French language vocals and tasteful strings —
Stereolab has created a great song — the kind of tune that
will grab anyone’s attention. From here, however, the album
begins its slow descent into familiar and boring territory:
mechanized bossa-nova beats and generally fuzzy synths. This is
music that sounds as if it were concocted in a lab.

Musicians should take notice of Stereolab’s chops. Like
their other records, Margerine is full of ideas.
Nonetheless, it’s somewhat surprising that an album so
upbeat, fun, and bright manages to lull the listener into a state
of complacency and disinterest by the halfway mark.

Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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