on 3 February 2004
Stereolab are just one of those great little bands that tinker away on the fringes of pop, honing their craft, always moving forward. Like say, The Fall, one suspects they will be around for ever. Their LPs will sell roughly the same amount of copies to their core fanbase and a few curious onlookers, and routinely score 4/5 in music press reviews. They never crashed onto the scene like Oasis or Radiohead, and never will. That’s not a bad thing, especially when they can still turn in material of this quality when many of their early 90s contemporaries have long since hung up their Fender Jazzmasters.
This ones a belter. Much better than the preceding EP (the rather lightweight 'Instant O....') had led me to expect. All the usual elements are there, the gorgeous melodies, the retro-futurist synths & beatboxes, the wacky shifts in time signature, the occasional metronomic wig-out.
So what's new? Well I hear a warmer, friendlier feel than their previous two outings which at times had a rather leaden academic approach almost too clever for their own good.
Its a very rhythmic record, perhaps their most danceable to date. It’s an eclectic record too, and you never really quite know what's going to happen next (which for a band accused of having a rather formulaic sound is no mean feat.). There is a definite Disco and electropop influence creeping in….but all in the best possible taste.
Love it. Never in-vogue (except for two weeks in 1996), never hip. They are still one of the best bands we've got.
In fact, curious fans might do worse than start here and work backwards through the catalogue.
The less sure should grab 'ABC Music: The BBC Sessions' first which is as good an overview of the bands career as any.
on 27 January 2013
I bought my first Stereolab album a year ago.
Always Knew about them, never heard them so i thought i'd give "Dots and Loops" a go.
First and second play, Hated it. What Is this music?
But i'd bought it, so i gave it another go and suddenly, Utterly Loved it and Understood it.
Went out and bought 3 more albums.
One year on, I now have 13 Stereolab CDs!
Only a few more to go now.
Every one is different, every one is the same. Every one is Gorgeous, Groovy and Unique.
The singing in french does give it a counter revolutionairy feel, i think helped by the fact that the vocals remind me of Eve Libertine and Joy De Vivre of CRASS on their sublime "Penis Envy" album. And that's a Good thing!
The music IS pure Stereolab. You either love it, or you're an un-groovy f er!
It's simple music, yet intensely complicated.
For True Music lovers they are an essential Trip.
Can't say which is my favourite album, but i Do love "Margerine Eclipse" loads and recommend it as a Pop-Tastic intro into the canon.
But be warned! One album is Not enough. You'll see!
Glad i made the effort to discover them.
(Ditto "Tarwater" and "Jimi Tenor" who i've also been buying a Lot of!)
on 22 February 2004
After the reflective and wonderful meanderings of the Labs last two albums the listener is at once struck by the energy and focus of this album. There are all the hall marks of the Stereolab sound (without sadly mary hansen's harmonies)but there is an urgency and a briskness to this release which is a bit like being swept up on an exciting ride in a strangers car,who may be under the influence of something questionable.
stereolab continue to rumninate on subjects lesser mortals would not approach and do not swerve form writing some of the most fascinating lyrics in contempory music.I have always loved the way they juxtapose the swirling changeable incantatory melodies with these words of mysterious and profound questioning.They are old souls who play at being young and even have fun! long may they reign!
on 8 January 2004
As a dedicated Stereolab-fan, this is one of the releases I've been looking forward to most. Ofcourse, I worried too if they'd go on with the band after Mary Hansen's accident-death, but they did, and released the sparking, fresh-sounding Instant 0 In The Universe EP. Now, Margerine Eclipse sounds just as fresh and sparkling. It's a tradition that every new Stereolab-album that come to my ears for the first time is bound to dissapoint; just because it's so overwhelming to hear 12 new tracks from your favorite band. I've heard Margerine Eclipse several times, and it really is a great album. I'm glad they got rid of the muddy production-pap of John McEntire (Tortoise) and Jim 'O Rourke (Sonic Youth) and went on with Fulton Dingley. His production is very simple and bright, and it does the band (and their songs), justice. Keeping in mind that Margerine Eclipse is a grower (at this point, also for me), I'll review the album track by track:
1 - Vonal Déclosion: A lovely track to start the album with. Really has all the Stereolab-trademarks, but also has a 'new' sound in a way I can't describe. Lovely, trippy and summery are three words that describe this songs best. It would have been great if they just made some parts in the song longer, so you could be really drawn in the song, like Stereolab songs used to draw you in with their pleasant droning. Rating: 8.5
2 - Need To Be: For some reason, this track took some getting used to. It doesn't stick with you until after 4 or 5 listens. One of their most 'French'-sounding songs, it really is chanson-like, with Laetitia whispering sexily over another great melody. Will probably grow out to be one of my favorites on this album. Rayting: 8
3 - Sudden Stars: Beautiful song, but as you already know it from Instant 0 In The Universe, I'll just continue... Rating: 8.5
4 - Cosmic Country Noir: Starts with a re-working of and old, obscure Lab-song: 'The Eclipse' and then suddenly warps into one of my favorite songs on the album. What's striking about Margerine Eclipse is that a lot of the songs show a whole lot more emotion; this song is so sweet, so gentle, so beautiful and so moving. Melody-wise, and lyric-wise too as it's about Mary. It sounds like a kind of lullaby-like ode to her. A clear highlight on the album, for sure. Rating: 9.5
5. La Demeure: Sounds a lot like the middlepart of Space Moth, from the Sound-Dust album. Starting out with blips 'n bloops, and brass-parts fading in and out, then u-turns into a disco-lite memory of the Sound-Dust album. Again, gorgeous melody and moving lyrics about Stereolab's favorite theme: war and repression. Rating: 9
6. Margerine Rock: Really surprising in a way that it's no surprise at all. This song is just plain, old school Stereolab straight from the Peng! and Emperor Tomato Ketchup-era! For that reason I expect it's an old song that wasn't included on ETK, but it doesn't make it any less catchy. A feel-good, rocking song like the perfect crossing between French Disko and Cybele's Reverie (without the strings). Rating: 8
7. The Man With 100 Cells: This is currently my favorite song on the album. Has a dark, and brooding tone in both the music and the lyrics ('The sea is rough now, the sky is rumbling, darkness descending') about probably America wanting to be the captain of the ship that is the world, but fails. Starts kind of loungy and pretty, and gets haunting, beautiful and sinister in the choruses. It's one of the most moving Lab-songs I've heard to date, and I've heard them all. Rating: 10
8. Margerine Melodie: A perfect blend of intelligent lyrics (as usual) with a catchy, thumping beat and simple but oh so gorgeous singing-melody, this song always makes me kind-of goosepimpely. Runs for over six minutes, with the second half being instrumental. You wonder where they get all that great songs from once in a while. Rating: 9.5
9. Hillbilly Motobike: The band clearly wanted to have fun again, and that's becoming quite clear on this catchy song. The song is reminiscent of a song on The Cardigans "First Band On the Moon". Short and lovely, but not one of their best. Rating: 7.5
10. Feel And Triple: A definite grower, with lyrics about Mary being gone. In the context of the album, not exactly a standout-track but pretty in it's own right. Because I haven't heard the album tons of times, it's hard to give a definite review, but that's not the intention now at all. Like this one a lot, but it does need to sink in a little more. Rating: 7.5/8
11. Bop Scotch: Rhythmboxes and sweet guitars make this one into another fun song, that again has Stereolab-trademarks (la-la-li-backingvox, distorted little organs) but goes into a new direction that I like very much. I'd call this the sound of a 're-born' Stereolab (although I always hate it when people use that description) full of energy and enthusiasm. Fun melody, joyous French singing. Great song. Rating: 9
12. Dear Marge: I hope I didn't sound like some critique-less fan as I listens to tons of other music to compare, but this album just really is great. It should have ended with the marvellous Bop Scotch though, because Dear Marge... well, it's just some sort of a letdown. It starts out really pretty, with softly strummed guitars and lulling singing that somehow reminds me of an old Beatles-song and has something Hawaiian about it too with it's cool "ahh-haa's" But it's just that they ruin it all in the end. After a few minutes of cooling-down pleasantness, the song turns into a Stereolab-automatic pilot thingy, then it fades... and they simply fade Mass Riff from Instant 0 into the mix. Exactly the same thing. Is it a joke? A mistake? An ode to Mary? A reprise? Anyhow, it's beyond comprehension why they chose to finish the album with this. Although the first half is really nice, the song is still ruined by the cheap fading in of Mass Riff, which is an awesome song, but doesn't have to be simply recycled and faded in. So weird... Rating: 5
Overall, Margerine Eclipse has the sound of a fresh Stereolab, tons of gorgeous, moving and haunting melodies, and a nice poppy attitude. Despite it's crappy ending, I'd rate this pretty high on my Stereolab all-time favorite list. Overall rating: 8.5
on 1 May 2011
I would never knock Stereolab. All their music is fantastic. Nevertheless, some of their albums are better than others, and there is a sense that their music lost some of its energy over time. As a result I don't listen to the most recent albums as much as I do to their earlier ones.
In that context, I'd like to give an honourable mention to "Margerine Eclipse", perhaps the last of the really great Stereolab albums, where each song really stands out. The centrepiece of the album, "The Man With 100 Cells", is particularly mesmerising. There is also a poignant ode to Mary Hansen, Stereolab's second vocalist, tragically killed in a road accident. The whole album is a fitting elegy to her, being both celebratory and tinged with sadness.
on 15 August 2010
Stereolab have a sound that, like the Cocteaus, you just know who it is from the first eight bars, even if you've never heard the trck before. This was the first album that came after the co- guitarist and vocalist, Mary, sadly died. I first felt that they would probably split up thinking that it would not be the same without her. And yes, it's not.. but I'm sure she would be very pleased with there path thereafter. A mixture of lo-fi and complex production techniques..constant changes taking you to lots of odd little places and at times really makes you smile.. it just sounds great. After resurfacing after about 18 months in my car on a trip up North it's now slipped up to first place in my Stereolab fave CD's.
on 22 March 2009
This was the band's first album following the death of longtime Stereolab member Mary Hansen. Her contributions of keyboards and backing vocals were such a critical part of the Stereolab sound and following such a tragedy you might have expected the band to split up, or at the very least to produce a dark and brooding album, one that mused on the futility of all things and the cruelty of chance. But far from it - driven by the feeling that Mary wouldn't have wanted Stereolab to stop or to dwell on the negative, the band seem to have chosen to do the complete opposite, not just by carrying on but by releasing one of the brightest, most upbeat, and life affirming albums of Stereolab's career.
Long ago I assumed that Stereolab was a French band, though in fact with this album I discovered that they are primarily of British origin and it's only lead vocalist Laetitia Sadier who has a nationality link that reaches directly across the channel (she was born in France).
Stereolab's music is a bit hard to describe but I suppose it draws on the sounds of lounge music, movie soundtracks, dreamy ambient pop, with bits of disco and progressive rock (the latter is suggested by their use of wacky shifts in time signature) thrown in for good measure. I've picked out, from the twelve tracks on this album, what sound like nods to the music of Malicorne, Burt Bacharach, Sally Oldfield, and even Blondie, whilst I'm almost certain that Stereolab have, in turn, been huge influences on the music of Air, Mellow and various bands of that ilk.
'Margerine Eclipse' is largely a lesson in just how perfect inventive and intelligent pop music can get, particularly on early tracks like 'Vonal Declosion', 'Need To Be', 'Cosmic Country Noir', and 'La Demeure'. Some of the later tracks get a bit darker or more experimental, and my favourites of these are 'The Man With 100 Cells' (with lyrics like 'The sea is rough now, the sky is rumbling, darkness descending' and 'You are the captain, do you feel equipped? You have now taken the helm of your ship', some people have seen this song as being about Bush's America, now thankfully a distant memory), the lengthy 'Margerine Melodie', and the tribute to Mary Hansen, 'Feel and Triple'.
There are occasions where the tracks get a bit samey, as though Stereolab are writing on auto-pilot, though these are thankfully rare and certainly every track contains something of interest.
At its best, 'Margerine Eclipse' is an elegant and charming album, full of irresistible melodies and lilting Gallic vocals and, although it doesn't quite maintain its heavenly pop perfection throughout, it's always interesting and assured.
Best tracks: 'Vonal Declosion', 'Need To Be', 'Cosmic Country Noir', 'La Demeure', 'The Man With 100 Cells', 'Margerine Melodie'.
on 10 January 2005
I you know the lab then you will know what to expect from this release. More beautiful and chilled than their earlier work this is closer to 'cobra and phases' than it is to 'refried ectoplasm'. It doesn't fit easily into any category, which is part of it's charm, too pop to be experimental, too jazz to be rock, too soft to be dance, not soft enough to be ambient.
If you are looking for an intro to the stereolab experience then this is probably as good a place to start as any.
on 1 April 2009
This album is a five starrer nothing less, it's light and airy, (not as heavy as the last album), it's better than some bands greatest hits CD's it's that good.
on 24 September 2004
After seeing them live without knowing any songs and being very impressed by the gig, i decided to buy an album. The album was slightly dissapointing as it was abit strange. Don't get me wrong, im all for origonal, inspiring music, it's just that this album was flat out music for a few minutes, then suddenly changed to a different speed and completely different sound within the same song.
It was good live but the album just didn't grab me. I personaly don't listen to background music but for people who do, this might be a worth while perchase. I just couldn't seen who it was trying to appeal to.