Stereo Total

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Oh Ah , 6/10
Monokini , 6.5/10
Juke-Box-Alarm , 4/10
My Melody , 5/10
Musique Automatique , 6/10
Do The Bambi (2005), 5/10
Paris Berlin (2007), 4/10
Baby Ouh (2010), 4/10
Cactus versus Brezel (2012), 4/10
Les Hormones (2016), 6/10
Ah Quel Cinema (2019), 5/10

Stereo Total is vocalist and electronic wizard Brezel Goering's project, based in Berlin. The line-up could not be more international: Francoise Cactus from France on drums and vocals, Lesley Campell from Scotland on guitar, Iznogood from Arabia on bass. Lyrics are sung in German, French, Italian, English and Japanese. Their songs span three decades of popular music, bridging Ramones, funk, girl-groups, Giorgio Moroder and Francoise Hardy, and they borrow freely from classics of the new wave, punk-rock, disco music and synth-pop. The trivial melodies are often rescued by Goering's eccentric arrangements, like when he uses a typewriter to set the rhythm for the polka of Dactylo Rock, on their very first EP, Allo J'Ecoute (1995). Far from being some postmodern exercise of collage and cut-and-paste, Stereo Total is merely a party band. Oh Ah (Bungalow, 1995), that also collects some of the early recordings, boasts C'est la Mort (a beach reggae a` la The Tide is High) and the romantic ballad Moviestar.

Their goofy, anarchic, exuberant incursions in the realm of popular music turn Monokini (Bungalow, 1997) into the sonic equivalent of a Marx Brothers movie. The immaculate melody of Schoen Von Hinten, the reggae lullaby Dilindam, and the electronic vaudeville of Und Wer Wird Sich Um Mich Kuemmern? coexist with the garage rave-ups of Lunatique and Tu M'As Voulue (with even echoes of the Gun Club) and the punk-rock detonations of LA CA USA and Aua.

The best tracks of the two albums were compiled on Stereo Total (Bobsled, 1998).

Their German-Palestinian vocalist Ghazi "Iznogood" Barakat started the project Pharoah Chromium.

The 16-song Juke-Box-Alarm (Bungalow, 1998 - Kill Rock Stars, 2006) is a vast disappointment. It starts out as a parody of pop muzak (Holiday Inn, Oh Yeah) but then the parody becomes rapidly stale and tedious while Goering's arrangements can do much to rescue trite melodies. Extraterrestrial keyboard noises derail the refrain of Touche Moi, but the song steals rhythm and riff from Tommy Roe's Dizzy). The vast majority of these songs are disposable.

Likewise, My Melody (Bungalow, 1999 - Kill Rock Stars, 2006) is not only confused and derivative, but also short of memorable "gags". The songs are simply party songs, played and sung for the sake of evoking a catchy refrain. Catchiest is the breathless rockabilly Vilaines Filles Mauvais Garcons, second best Ich Liebe Dich Joe D'Alessandro, and third Partir ou Mourir, plus the exotic Tokyo Mon Amour and Die Krise. The eccentric arrangements of songs like Discjockey and Du und dein Automobil try in vain.

Musique Automatique (Bungalow, 2001 - Kill Rock Stars, 2002) marks an improvement. Stereo Total opts for a more facile style, but at least here the fusion of French easy-listening, British operetta, Broadway musical and new wave, set to amateurish dance beats, beach Farfisa and garrulous exotic singer, concocts a few charming "chansons": the Dylan-ian L'Amour A 3, that sounds like Like a Rolling Stone, the garage rave-up Forever 16, the demented synth-pop carillion of Je Suis Une Poupee, the android Ma Radio... In the wake of Air or Stereolab, Stereo Total now need to carve themselves a viable niche. The album includes the syncopated dance novelty Wir Tanzen Im Viereck, one of the staples of their live shows.

The ditties on Do The Bambi (Kill Rock Stars, 2005) run the gamut from synth-pop to ye-ye beat, quoting from Beethoven as well as the Velvet Underground. Francoise Cactus is virtually unbeatable at her game of Sixties impersonation, notably in Les Lapins . If the childish Do The Bambi is more representative of the bulk of the album, there are also the hard-rocking La Douce Humanite, the punkish Ne M'Appelle Pas Ta Biche, the cabaret-tish Europa Neurotisch, the comic rockabilly of Hungry! and a couple of robotic songs (I Am Naked, Troglodyten).

Discotheque (Disko B, 2006) is a remix album.

Paris Berlin (Kill Rock Stars, 2007), whose highlights are two psychobillies, Plastic and Relax Baby be Cool, and the electronic gag Moderne Musik, Baby Ouh (Kill Rock Stars, 2010), with the ultra-derivative synth-pop of No Controles and Larmes de Metal, and Cactus versus Brezel (2012), with the techno-pop of Die Frau in der Musik and the punk-pop of Da Monstrum, sound indeed like a compromise between the melodic French chansonniers of the "beat" era and atmospheric German electronic music of the new wave.

No Controles (2009) compiles some of their most famous songs but sung in Spanish.

Les Hormones (Staatsakt, 2016), their first album without any covers, marked a surprising return to form, perhaps also because Stereo Total (now just the duo of Brezel Goering and Francoise Cactus) refined their skills scoring film soundtracks. It's still all derivative and dejavu, but elegant and spirited. The soaring Zu Schoen Fuer Dich, sung in German, is a cross between Nena's 99 Luftballons and the French ye-ye girls of the 1960s The garage rave-up of Good Night Bad Morning sounds like a cover of We Got The Beat by 1980s girl-group Go-Go's They distil pure nostalgia in the naive pop of Fleur de Hollande and Adieu Sophie, but they also venture outside familiar territory: Labu Hotelu (Das Stundenhotel) is a bluesy music-hall skit, and Asonderu indulges in pounding dance-pop with videogame noise. The arrangements are not particularly lush, but all sorts of instruments are employed, from the harpsichord of C'est Mon Secret to the xylophone of Cactus Berry and the bugle of Halt Deine Kerze Gerade.

Ah Quel Cinema (2019) is a moodier and more eccentric affair. The marching Cinemascope has a neoclassical appeal thanks to simulated string and brass sections. Brezel Says literally samples Trio's immortal anthem Da Da Da, while Dancing with a Memory ends with a sped-up quote from the Electric Light Orchestra's Can't Get It Out of My Head. They delight with their take on post-industrial existential dance: Keine Musik and especially Einfach Kompliziert, a relentless techno locomotive and possibly their most demented dancefloor number. Methedrine is an odd tribute to the wild psychedelic Sixties in the form of a melancholy ballad. Ich Bin Cool is the melodic gem du jour, a parody of or tribute to the era of twist. However, too much in this album is redundant. It should have been an EP.

Francoise Cactus died in 2021 at the age of 57.

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