As someone else said, more like four and half,
This review is from: Margerine Eclipse (Audio CD)
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'.