Stereo Total – Oh Ah / Monokini

Stereo Total
Oh Ah / Monokini

First of all, it must be noted that for whatever reason, Franco-German electropunk duo Stereo Total thought it would be a really good idea to cover the seminal KC and the Sunshine Band song, “Get Down Tonight,” on their 1996 debut LP Oh Ah. Normally, I’m all for covers – I think it showcases a band’s roots, its influences, and, in some cases, it can be a way to honor a particularly notable inspiration. 1970s punk bands took an instant liking to the Kingsmens’ “Louie Louie,” an indication that many of them recognized their early 50s and 60s garage roots. On the other hand, acknowledging schlockmeisters such as KC and his interracial circus of future car commercial hit makers is just as socially awkward as actually donning the sequin jumpsuit and prancing around in it. Moreover, Stereo Total does nothing to improve on the already cavity-causing disco hit, despite paring down the beat and adding Francois Cactus’ sultry, German spy-sounding vocals. However, the duo also chooses to cover Salt-N-Peppa’s “Push It” in a delightfully lo-fi and trashy move. The beat is heavy on the high-hat, and Brezel Goring’s guitars sound bored and over-sexed (that and the whole track is less than minute, never allowing the cheesiness of the song to actually set in).
Ultimately, that is exactly from where Stereo Total’s charm derives: the melding of unselfconscious trashiness with the blasé, stereotypically over-sexed Euro attitude. Goring and Cactus give the impression that they recorded all 20 tracks of Oh Ah and all 19 tracks of Monokini while on one weekend-long coke binge. And it’s hard not to respect them for that. Oh Ah‘s gritty, spare production smacks of smoke-filled basements, flickering red lights, and sly, heavily-masscaraed glances from across the bar. Concurrently, Monokini is a carbonated, synth-driven sex romp on the French Riviera, complete with Monsieur Hulot falling all over the place and your girlfriend insisting that its all right to sunbathe naked – “it’s customary.”
Critically speaking – because let’s face it, we ain’t trying to sell you anything here (we’re just trying to prepare you for that next loft party/make-out party where invariably some one will ask you what you’ve been listening to lately, and it’s then that’ll you’ll lift your eyes to the pipe-choked ceiling and whisper a silent prayer to DOA for allowing you to spout off a thick line about Franco-German electropunk and look like a true asshole to everyone around you…an asshole that they will all silently remain in awe of…but I digress) – Stereo Total, while having the fun, buoyant, unrestrained element of their genre down pat, is also seriously lacking a congruent ascetic. Oh Ah, while being shabbily glamorous, wears a bit thin around “A L’Amour Comme a La Guerre,” which sounds exactly like “Comme un Garcon” which sounds suspiciously like “Avec Ma Valise,” and so on. It’s the incessant repetition of the Euro-punkabilly formula that makes you think that these guys might be a one-trick pony. Similarly, I spent a modicum of time searching through the haystack of songs on Monokini looking for that needle to stand out and maybe draw a little blood to little avail. Stereo Total seems content sticking to fuzzy synth/spare production/electro-pop that, while utterly charming and perfect for your next martini party, makes you feel after a certain point like you may have been in Urban Outfitters a bit too long.
That said, “C’Est La Mort” from Oh Ah is the most infectious, skin-crawlingly addictive song I may have heard…ever. A spare drumbeat, a slide whistle, a cadre of “backup singers” whose only purpose is to go “Ah! Ah! Ah!” when necessary, Boring’s expert sound manipulation, and Cactus’ sexy, girlish vocals all add up to the kind of song that’ll make you dance like a fucking Peanuts character. “Une baguette, du chocolat / Un café au lait, un coca-cola,” Cactus purrs, apparently going down a laundry list of shit she wants you to buy her before she even considers your ragged ass. And hell, after hearing her sing like a Lollita popping out of a cake, she can have all of that. She can even bum as many of my Gauloises as she wants.