Album The Serge
posted by August 30 at 14:35 PMon
In this week’s album reviews, I review Stereo Total’s new album, Paris Berlin:
(Kill Rock Stars)
Stereo Total is the French/German duo of Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring. She’s a little bit ye-ye, he’s a little bit diskothek. Stereo Total is their international make-out session. And Paris-Berlin is Stereo Total at their best.
With their eighth album, Stereo Total bring the latent radicalism of their borderless free love to the surface, striking revolutionary poses in song and in the album’s socialist agit-prop artwork. “Baby Revolution” (cowritten by radical gay filmmaker/author Bruce LaBruce) is a love letter/manifesto full of sweet slogans: “There will be no revolution/without sexual revolution,” “The bed is the last barricade/of bourgeois life,” “Put your Marxism/where your mouth is,” and so on. The gushing anthem “Patty Hearst” paints its subject as a willing situationist savior. “Komplex Mit Dem Sex” is a cool bossa nova ode to gender transgression.
If all this sounds a little too theoretical, don’t worry. Stereo Total’s mix of punk, new wave, electro, mod, and ye-ye pop is fun and sexy enough to make for some pretty satisfying praxis.
“Komplex Mit Dem Sex” has more than a hint of Serge Gainsbourg to it, as does the breezy funk of “Ta Voix Au Téléphone.” Conversely, the band’s Gainsbourg cover, “Relax Baby Be Cool,” opts for nervous rock ‘n’ roll boogie rather than Gauloises-smoking mod cool. “Lolita Fantôme” combines the duo’s breathy singing with descending chords, bouncing xylophone, and a Timbaland-worthy baby squeal. The duo alternately sing in French, German, English, and other languages, but myriad tongues are hardly a problem. Enough words translate for songs like “Komplex Mit Dem Sex” or “Baisers de l’Enfer de la Musique” to make some rough sense, and songs like “Lolita Fantôme” and “Ta Voix Au Téléphone” may actually benefit from some misunderstanding—their sad subjects sound light and romantic without the proper translation.
Coincidentally, I recently discovered this awesome clip of Serge Gainsbourg meeting Whitney Houston (hat tips to Bettina and TV Carnage):
Stereo Total play Mon Sept 3 at Chop Suey, with the Octopus Project, Welcome, 8 pm, $10, all ages.