After nine studio albums, the Anglo-French unit Stereolab has become very comfortable in its sound, sinking into a beanbag chair of Laetitia Sadier's "ba-da-ba's," Farfisa organ drones, wonderfully serpentine bass lines, and krautrock/bossa nova/waltz rhythms.
One would think that Margerine Eclipse, the first album released since singer/keyboardist Mary Hansen's death in 2002, ought to reflect Stereolab's sadness over its loss. The new disc, it turns out, is business as usual. But we don't come to the band for bold deviations into new territory. In a world bedeviled with awful change, we turn to its aura of avant-bubblegum exotica, as well as its socialist lyrics (seductively sung while it cashes checks from a major label). Stereolab has been riding the same Esquivel/Tortoise/Mutantes motorcycle since 1997's Dots and Loops; Margerine Eclipse tunes up the bike's engine further. Ultimately, though, the disc's as pretty and inconsequential as a trophy wife.
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