Francois Cactus and Brezel Goring have unleashed a more basic beast to succeed 2005’s condensed after hours indie top forty, Do the Bambi. With the duo back to the four track, Paris-Berlin is being publicised as a return to lo-fi simplicity within the context of a characteristic ambivalence towards musical and social conventions…
As usual, I haven’t got a clue about the lyrical detail of most songs featured, aside from the English translations and descriptions provided on liner notes and press kits (which sometimes add to the mystique). My love affair with Stereo Total has always been based on tones and moods conveyed. In my linguistic ignorance, it’s like receiving wisdom transmitted from Mars, or the quote from one of my favourite musicians likening meeting Morrissey to seeing a Unicorn.
To credit the advertisers, Paris-Berlin sounds very much like Stereo Total stripped down to essence point. The staple electro, chanson, and rock’n’roll ingredients are present. There’s a shoddy enthusiasm radiated through these poster paint arrangements comparable to interesting early punk albums. The best bits have an equivalent positive impact. “Ta voix Au Telephone” exudes camp pomp and a carefree abandon that seeps into the consciousness. Somehow it compliments the enclosed tail of a couple struggling to hear each other on an international call. This song is the sonic equivalent of a loud fancy dress costume that’s cool enough to elicit much thought.
“Relax Baby Be Cool” is a Serge Gainsbourg cover, apparently adapted from detailing the Ku Klux Klan to deal with a paranoid woman growing listless in a crowd. It just sounds perfect. The electro breakdown creates images of Sesame Street and zoot suits jigging. “Baby Revolution,” a Raspberry Reich quoting ode to sexual revolution apparently advocating free-for-alls in the street, isn’t something I can really identify with or classify. Removing the last trappings of bourgeoisie life through mass gratuity seems a little contradictory. Cactus and Goring might be making a subtler point, but I’m more of the Luke Haines school of romance… Given the circumstances, “Komplex mit dem sex” cuts to the soul pretty acutely. There’s a tragic-comic element to the subdued keyboards, as though rain clouds are following the protagonist as she worries about her existence in a sex besotted world. A bit naff, and absolutely charming.
A basic recording structure really compliments the punkier, overt cuts on Paris-Berlin. “Baisers de l’enfer de la musique” captures the spirit of the past 1950’s and 1970’s icons it concerns. “Moderne Musik” recalls Bis, Buggles and Chuck Berry clashing on bad AM radio as live cohorts San Reimo and Angie Reed guest. As with previous efforts, light-hearted uplift isn’t always the only ingredient present. “Plastic” features “Plastic suicide bombers,” dying “for plastic ideas” and a “plastic overdose.” The chorus advocates adding “plastic music to our ugly lives,” over early Ramones buoyancy.
Paris-Berlin is another success for Stereo Total. The unpolished surface is a suitable canvas for the content. After Music Automatique‘s perfect night out, and Do the Bambi‘s nocturnal soundtrack, this record puts the listener in a fuzzy headspace where afterthought and intimacy intertwine with the here and now. Relax and be cool.
Stereo Total – Do the Bambi
The Ramones – Ramones Mania
Bis – The New Transistor Heroes