Living in Berlin you have probably heard of Stereo Total before (if not: shame on you). If you’re living in Paris, maybe not so much, but then again, I don’t really know. Welcome to the review of their next-to-newest album Paris <> Berlin.
Stereo Total is a band that consists first and foremost of Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring (in the past there were other band members). Françoise is from France and therefore lends some French credibility to the music by applying her signature thick accent (although I’ve read somewhere that her German is actually practically accent free) and has co-written almost all of the songs on the album, together with a Mr. V. Finsterwalde, who is really just also Brezel Göring under another alias.
Paris<>Berlin was released in 2007 and as Stereo Total releases usually go, created a little buzz in alternative and indie media, while that didn’t really translate into mainstream coverage (although they enjoy some visibility within the German media thanks to hits like Liebe zu dritt, Wir tanzen im 4-eck and Ich bin nackt). Also as usual the album features a mix of languages, primarily German and French, but also some English (though no Spanish or Japanese this time around).
Logistically I will go through the tracklist, try to limit my words so as not to bore you to death, provide some background info where necessary and give a X out of 10 rating to each of the songs. Yay, let’s go!
1. Miss Rébellion des hormones
Sweet, melancholic intro to the song and thus to the album. And a song about a girl in need of love attending a boarding school. “Elle a besoin d’amour, plus que de nourriture” (she is in need of love, more so than of nutrition). Haven’t we all felt like that at some point? 8/10.
2. Ich bin der Stricherjunge
One of the rarer songs on which Brezel is singing. About a gay hustler who is smoking way too much. It’s fun and it’s nice, but the major highlight is probably Françoise exhibiting her newfound trumpet-skills, that are rudimentary but totally suffice to make this song a little gem. 9/10
A very typical Stereo Total song IMO, since there are several songs that sound very alike. It’s not bad, but nowhere near the genius that some of their other songs are. “I wanna be plastic too, less like me, and more like you” is a cute line though. I’ll grant it 7/10, knowing that Stereo Total average-ness is still above most of the rest.
4. Komplex mit dem Sex
A lot like Baby Revolution, this song is quite and cute, but centers around the issue of sex. While a song about sexual confusion (man? woman? nympho? masturbation? her libido is a fiasco) sounds like a horrible idea for most musical acts (because really, we don’t want to hear about it from the likes of Britney, Mando Diao, Bruce Springsteen or many others), it is a wonderful starting point for Stereo Total to be creative with the material. 9,5/10.
5. Lolita Fantôme
Much like Plastic in French, this is a song I’d consider to be average Stereo Total material. Neither mindblowing nor bad or boring, a good 7/10.
6. Küsse aus der Hölle der Musik
10/10, because this song is fucking fantastic and my favorite on the album. Name-checking the history of rock (and roll) this songs sends you a hundred thousand kisses from the hell of music (and when you receive them, you cannot survive). “Ich bin die neue Selbstmordwelle der Nineteen-Eighties” (I’m the new suicide wave of the 1980s) is a line that should be my new daily mantra. Never has killing canonical rock/punk/pop-history sounded so charming, complete with electric bleeps and stuff. Stereo Total bringing their A-game.
7. Plus minus Null
And the A-game song on the Album is followed by another A-game tune! Yay! Plus minus Null reminds me a lot of “Exakt Neutral” on the previous album “Do the Bambi.” Awesome contrast between the music accompanying verses and chorus. “So viel reden für so wenig Sex” (so much talking for so little sex) gives you and idea why she never arrives at the equilibrium of more or less zero. Deserves a 9,9 out of ten, just to make Küsse aus der Hölle der Musik a little more special.
8. Mehr Licht
It’s not bad and it’s diverse, but somehow it doesn’t get to me, so I’ll label it “skip-able” and give it a meagre 5/10.
9. Ta voix au telephone
Brezel singing (in French) and Françoise groaning to a tune that could well have been born in the 60s. Before re-listening to it I couldn’t remember how cool that song is, would totally make for an awesome driving-my-car (not that I have one) song. Âllo, âllo, tu m’entends? 8/10
10. Patty Hearst
Who is Patty Hearst? “Princess and terrorist,” according to Stereo Total (who ask to be saved by her). I like the song and give it 8 out of 10 (stars, points, whatever), definitely one of the poppier on the album. But what I really had to do for this review is finally informing myself about who Patty Hearst actually was and what she did. I’ve seen her image and heard her name countless times, but somehow I never got to the point that I had actual knowledge about this (leftist? alternative?) icon. So, here we go:
Patty Hearst was born 1954 to a wealthy family and was kidnapped while attending the University of Berkeley in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a left-wing urban guerrilla group, that tried to swap Hearst for imprisoned members of their group. This plan failed and they then demanded the handing out of food worth 70 Dollars to each person in need in California (which would have amounted to about 400 Million US-Dollars), a demand that was met only in part by Hearst’s father who donated 6 Million for food being distributed in the Bay Area. Ultimately, this didn’t change the SLA-members minds, but what happened and cemented Patty Hearst’s fame (or notoriety) was her switching sides, when she became an active member of the SLA, participating in a bank robbery that she was later convicted for. She refused to testify against other SLA members and held on to her commitment to the group, but her defense argued that this was caused by the trauma she had experienced through the kidnapping. After having been convicted to 35 years in prison, she actually only spent two in jail and was pardoned by US President Bill Clinton in 2001. She has worked as an actress and produced documentaries ever since.
Turns out that I actually have heard about her, but never connected her name to the story. Inneresting, ain’t it?
11. Baby Revolution
This one is co-written by iconic gay filmmaker Bruce LaBruce in that its lyrics are picked up from his feature film/porn-movie “Raspberry Reich” with its very own take on Gudrun Ensslin, revolutionary forces on the radical left and explicit sex scenes in shades of straight, gay and bisexual. Having said all that, the song has a lullaby-like quality to it, the lyrics being recited calmly and smoothly, with the music twinkling along. One of my favorites on the album, therefore a solid 8/10.
12. Relax Baby be cool
A cover of a Serge Gainsbourg song that is nice, but then again nice is kinda boring, so yeah, I don’t mind it, but it leaves me cold. I feel like it should have taken off somewhere, but doesn’t. Still, 6/10.
A cute tune with cute lyrics, once again a good illustration of what Stereo Total achieve on average, if not slightly above. 7,5/10
14. Moderne Musik
Somehow in my mind Moderne Musik is closely connected to Küsse aus der Hölle der Musik, even though the two have little in common (well, yeah, except for both being from Stereo Total, being on the same album and scream-singing of certain lyrics….Shut up!). I feel that this one is slightly less stellar than the awesomeness that is Küsse, but it is still a cool track and works perfectly as an album closer, so 8/10.
I hope my review/Patty Hearst teaching lesson provided a little fun time for you, and if it made you interested in the album and if you haven’t already listened to it, go and do so, you’ll not regret it.