Stereo Total

Paris-Berlin

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AllMusic Review by

Stereo Total fans could be forgiven for thinking that Paris-Berlin is a reissue or a collection of older songs. Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring have returned to the bolder, lower-fi sound of albums like My Melody, using cheap and cheerful drum machines and keyboards, and guitars that borrow the best from '50s rockabilly, '60s pop and '70s punk and new wave as their sonic palette. After a few years of the duo's more polished approach, it takes a little while to get reacquainted with their rawer side. However, it's the perfect fit for the brash, exuberant feel of these songs -- Paris-Berlin is a party record, and a subversive, political one at that. The Constructivist-inspired album artwork hints at the songs of sex, revolution, and sexual revolution inside, and Göring and Cactus free their minds, bodies and music from any bourgeois preconceptions of what they should be. Countercultural icons of the past and present inspired songs like "Patty Hearst," which finds Stereo Total longing to be freed by America's "princess and terrorist," while "Baby Revolution" sets writer/photographer Bruce LaBruce's sexually liberated manifestos ("the revolution is my boyfriend/the revolution is my girlfriend") to music. And though Paris-Berlin's sound is relatively simple, there's a lot going on in these songs, both musically and lyrically: an off-key trumpet warble becomes a hook on "Ich Bin Der Stricherjunge," while "Komplex mit Dem Sex" questions sexual normality in a lighthearted way. Stereo Total also tackles the obsession with youth and perfection on the self-explanatory "Plastic" and simultaneously celebrates and skewers rock's famously self-destructive history on "Baisers de L'Enfer de La Musique" (which translates to "kisses from the hell of music"), but not all of Paris-Berlin is quite so conceptual. "Lolita Fantôme," the tale of a ghost temptress, has a fetching, fleeting melody, and "Ta Voix Au Telephone" is sexy, cheeky and a little kitschy -- in other words, classic Stereo Total. "Plus Minus Null" and "Moderne Musik" touch on the band's frantic, punky side, while "Relax Baby Be Cool" provides a de rigueur Serge Gainsbourg cover (served up this time with an electro twist). Paris-Berlin is Stereo Total's most immediate album since Musique Automatique, and shows that whether they play it rough or smooth, Stereo Total's distinctive sound transcends trends.

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