Stereo Total

Stereo Total

Oh Ah [Reissue]

Monokini [Reissue]

Kill Rock Stars

There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets kidnapped by mysterious strangers and is replaced with an obviously German imposter. When Marge raises questions about his uncharacteristic habits, Fake Homer assuages her fears by telling her he’ll take her out to dinner before having “a night of efficient German sex.” Somewhere in the midst of these two discs is the perfect album for that night.

Oh Ah, Stereo Total’s dingy no-fi debut, brings lyrics of bedroom ambition, cooed by Françoise Cactus in German, French and English. But the music would destroy the mood. Take “C’est La Mort,” one of the album’s catchier tracks. The bass, while thumping, is robbed of its low end and limps flaccidly in the background. Since there are only two primary players in the band, most songs follow either the guitar-drums or keyboard-drums dynamic. It’s not a severe sonic limitation, as the duo, with occasional help, roll through disco-punk, electrified ’50s pop and kitschy 21st century cabaret. At no point does it feel as though the band is cycling through styles, lost or grasping at straws, but most of the album has an amateurish, ambling bent to it. Song by song this isn’t a bad thing, but at twenty tracks there’s very little cohesion, making things drag toward the end. Bad news for an upbeat pop album…

The band’s sophomore effort, Monokini, is a drastic improvement from the get go. “Ach Ach Liebling” has pumping beats and chirping electronic flourishes behind Cactus’s ice queen intonations. It conjures up ideas of what Nena must have padded the rest of her 99 Luftballons album with.

If anything, Monokini refines the formula established on the debut. Musically, there are kitschier ’50s overtones combined with warm ’80s analogue pulses and a late ’90s DJ-centric atmosphere. The closer attention given to production consistency smoothes out the ragged edges of their previous disc and brings a happy unity throughout this album. Remember: this album was a contemporary of Air’s stellar Moon Safari and Stereolab’s pitch-perfect Emperor Tomato Ketchup, and not too far removed from either in method of creation or statement of purpose. It’s thoroughly excellent, from start to finish.

But anyway, back to Marge and Fake Homer’s bedroom soundtrack… a few odds and ends from Oh Ah tacked on to the whole of Monokini would work quite nicely. That’s very efficient, very German and very sexy.

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