Stereolab: Not Music

Drag City

Stereolab has lost some luster since the days when such albums as Mars Audiac Quintet came bounding across the globe in the mid-'90s. After all, a band can do only so much with a strict regimen of French pop, lounge and Krautrock nuances. Not Music is the sequel to 2008's Chemical Chords, which brought the group out of a steep nosedive. Like its predecessor, Not Music brings Stereolab back up to cruising altitude. Recorded at the same time as Chemical Chords, songs such as "Everybody's Weird Except Me" and "Equivalences" lock into hypnotic, timeless Stereolab grooves. "So Is Cardboard Clouds" starts off strong, but degrades into pointless record-skipping repetition. "Silver Sands" is the hallucinogenic eye of the storm, and Atlas Sound's mix of "Neon Beanbag" closes the album with a dose of head-cleaning drone. Trimmed down from 31 songs to 13, Not Music still drags a bit. But there are moments of brilliance here, the likes of which Stereolab hasn't summoned in years. (3 out of 5 stars)