Before I get started, readers be warned: this month’s album requires an open mind, plenty of patience and (quite possibly) a sense of humor. It’s weird. No, seriously. It’s weird. But it’s also so, so good, remarkably so.
A close friend of mine introduced me to this group when we first started to learn German as a kind of “listen-to-how-hilarious-these-guys-are-but-wait-they’re-actually-good” kind of thing. This charismatic duo is comprised of Françoise Cactus, from France, and Brezel Göring, from Germany, and the band is currently stationed in Berlin.
There are many things that not only make this band unique, but also wicked cool and badass. For one, when they started making music in the 90s, they played their songs on self-built guitars and cheap electronics, and they described their sound as “[a mix of] French Chanson, Disco, Rockabilly, and Garage”. Not to mention their sketchy-glamorous, ruddy, loud, sexy and obnoxious aesthetic, and the fact that they sing in five languages: French, German, English, Spanish and Japanese.
They sound very dirty in an interesting way. Their sound is unkempt and kind of Lo-Fi wavy in essence, and they aren’t shy about what they put in their songs. Stereo Total reminds me of an illegal Punk dive in a French city in the 1960s where everyone is drunk and sticky with sweat and glitter, but also of a high fashion runway at the same time. Their music is hot, sleazy, vintage-inspired, and very bizarre yet subtly and surprisingly Haute Couture sophisticated, sweet, dreamy and never fails to be charming.
This skuzzy, drunken charm is similar to that of Hunx and his Punx and Mac DeMarco’s music, but it pushes the limits further to make the weird and ugly odds-and-ends into a muddy mess that we love every second of. This sound is unapologetically dripping with sex, screaming with violence, dazzling with whit, and luring with every turn.
Baby Ouh! in particular is one of the group’s newer full-length releases (it came out in 2010), and reflects the roots the group has held true to throughout the years, making this a highly colourful and textured album to listen to.
To be perfectly honest, this is the only album I have by the group (seeing as they aren’t an easy band to come by in Canada), so I can’t make that much of an insightful comparison between the albums for you, but I have heard a fair amount of their older songs and can come to a conclusion about this album based on that.
Most bands will have a tendency to change up their sound quite a bit as they progress forward. Some will do this with time, either out of musical curiosity or out of the band’s popularity, and others will do this with every new album to make it a unique piece of work (Arcade Fire, for example).
Then, there are those who find a sound and stick to it, if anything refining it ever so slightly, but never become dull or tasteless. Iron and Wine does this quite well, so does Best Coast, MGMT, The Magnetic Fields, etc. Stereo Total is also one of these cases. Because their sound is so tailor-made, it’s not something that we come across very often, but there’s also some sort of bold flavor that they bring to every bit of music that makes it hard to ignore or not to like.
Their sound is always fun and not serious, which is refreshing since many artists don’t make music for the sake of it being harmless fun, and tend to focus more on self-expression or composition instead of just letting things go and get weird. Don’t get me wrong—I could go on for ages about the genius behind their musical compositions, textures, diversity and melodies, and I truly feel that they put just as much effort into their work as any other musician would, but they do something that many artists are afraid to do, and that is to cut loose and have some fun (and, in cases like the song “Hello Ladies”, some laughs).
Also, the song “I Wanna Be a Mama” has some very Halloween-like vibes, even though the song itself doesn’t have much to do with this, the time of the spooky. It’s one of my favourite tracks on Baby Ouh!, and its lyrics, if you really look into them, are a very snappy jab at society and modern Western civilization as we know it. The song itself is very upbeat and confident, but can easily turn haunting when you’re walking alone at night.
On a final note about the contents of the album, I feel it necessary to talk about the song “Violent Love”. I believe that if there were one song to accurately personify the mixture of love and desire that often comes jumbled and awkward with our feelings for a person, it would be this one. Do you ever want to just nail someone so hard that you drive a small hole into the ground your hormones are so intense, yet you still want to love them always, cover them in exotic flowers and write poetry about them? This is the perfect song for that. It also seems to carry a very 50s greaser/punk vibe, though I’m not sure how.
So, in short, I would definitely give this eclectic and oddball album a listen, and even if you don’t like what you’re listening to right away, listen again, you’d be surprised how much your opinion might change.
Keep an ear out for: “Alaska”, “Larmes du Métal”, “Wenn Ich ein June Wär”, and “No Controles”
Have fun, wild things.