Stereolab have appeared in many places during their 18-year life span—including on the now-defunct major label Elektra Records and on the Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy soundtrack, for instance—but perhaps none so strange as on McCainBlogette.com, the blog of Meghan McCain. The Republican presidential candidate's daughter has been assiduously documenting her dad's campaign online via photographs and commentary.

Accompanying each day's barrage of Repug political shenanigans is a song that happens to be rocking young McCain's world. Recent picks include "Baba O'Riley" by the Who, "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by the Verve, "So What" by Pink, and Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild." Most of these tunes McCain chooses display a rebellious, individualistic streak and could hardly be construed as paragons of conservative "family values." Good luck trying to find such songs that will excite a young person—even if she happens to be the offspring of a prominent Republican politician.

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On September 29, a few days after the first McCain-Obama debate, that tune was Stereolab's "Ping Pong," from the European band's 1994 album Mars Audiac Quintet.

"Ping Pong" is an odd choice. First, because Stereolab—led by guitarist/keyboardist Tim Gane and vocalist/keyboardist Laetitia Sadier—possess well-documented interests in Marxism, situationism, and surrealism. (Gane's pre- Stereolab group, McCarthy, were also notoriously leftist.) Second, because "Ping Pong" is a sardonic critique of capitalism's cruel boom/bust cycles. This is the song Meghan McCain was listening to over and over again as the American economy was in free fall:

It's alright 'cos the historical pattern has shown

How the economical cycle tends to revolve

In a round of decades three stages stand out in a loop

A slump and war then peel back to square one and back for more

Bigger slump and bigger wars and a smaller recovery

Huger slump and greater wars and a shallower recovery

You see the recovery always comes 'round again

There's nothing to worry for things will look after themselves

It's alright recovery always comes 'round again

There's nothing to worry if things can only get better

There's only millions that lose their jobs and homes and sometimes accents

There's only millions that die in their bloody wars, it's alright

That's a hell of a "song of the day," just as John McCain is trying to dig himself out of a hole for saying that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong." It almost seems as if Meghan McCain were slyly trying to subvert her pop's campaign by spotlighting such an anticapitalist ditty.

Meghan McCain did not respond to requests for comment. Similarly, repeated efforts to interview Stereolab's musical mastermind Gane failed. With no input from them regarding the ironic intrusion of "Ping Pong" on the McCain daughter's website, let's consider how Stereolab's new album, Chemical Chords (4AD/Duophonic UHF Disks), compares to John McCain's run for the presidency.

Chemical Chords is a subtle variation on what Stereolab have done in the past. After 18 years of prolific production, they aren't breaking any significant new ground; very few groups—or politicians—do so this far into their careers, even "mavericky" artists like Gane and Sadier. Stereolab recorded Chemical Chords very quickly, using an unconventional songwriting process in which beats and melodies came together almost haphazardly. The McCain camp has used a seemingly similar slapdash approach, to much less harmonious results.

The compositional method for Chemical Chords was certainly different, but the outcome doesn't deviate radically from the bulk of Stereolab's back catalog. They could do a polka album and most people would be able to instantly recognize Gane and Sadier's sonic fingerprints.

Chemical Chords is at once one of Stereolab's oddest and most accessible albums. The songs are generally shorter than typical (14 tracks in 48 minutes is concise for Stereolab) and melodically bright, tinctured by bubbly harpsichord, glockenspiel, strings, and horns. Gone are the brooding, meandering cuts that dotted Dots and Loops and Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements (the latter title could be Team McCain's slogan).

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But while a light, cheerful mood permeates Chemical Chords (strange, given the gloomy economic and political climate), the rhythms seem strangely detached from the melodies, creating a pleasing friction; it's as if two usually incompatible elements—liberal and conservative, say—are commingling, but not clashing. The album is stitched together from disparate parts, but it coheres—unlike the floundering McCain ticket, which should be scored by The Odd Couple theme played on untuned tubas.

Somehow, it's as hard to imagine Meghan McCain making anything on Chemical Chords her song of the day as it is to conceive Stereolab (if they were American) voting for her father. recommended