Stereo Total

Baby Ouh!

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As much of a return to lo-fi fun as Paris-Berlin was, it felt a little low on the downright weird touches that make Stereo Total such a unique pop band. That can’t be said of Baby Ouh!, a flirty and quirky set that opens with “Hello Ladies,” one of the strangest songs to the band’s name. “Hello ladies’ toilet!” Françoise Cactus yells, singing from the point of view of a washroom attendant as her voice speeds up and ricochets around her. From there, she and Brezel Göring explore the contents of “Divine’s Handbag” (the first two items are hairspray and polyester, of course), bringing a chorus of children along for the ride, and pay tribute to Andy Warhol with an aptly spacy and sweet track. Baby Ouh! feels equally inspired by John Waters’ daring kitsch and Warhol’s brightly colored pop art, with an emphasis on the pop -- for all of the album’s strangeness, these are some of Stereo Total’s most tightly structured songs in some time. Synths dominate songs like “Alaska” and “No Controles” (which originally appeared on a Spanish best-of collection of the same name), adding to the album’s pop veneer. And while there are more straightforward moments, such as the buzzy “Elles Te Bottent, Mes Bottes?” and “Larmes des Metal”’s aerodynamic rock, the album and band fire on all cylinders when the going gets weird. “I Wanna Be a Mama” finds Göring singing about motherhood, gender identity, and generally dysfunctional parenting (“I will name him Lucifer”) over the band’s unique mix of ‘50s and ‘60s beats and ‘80s synths. “Violent Love,” meanwhile, closes the album with a charming love song driven by bongos and xylophone that ends in frenzy, as any song called “Violent Love” should. Stereo Total are so adept at this mix of quirk, hooks, and panache that sometimes it’s hard to believe they’re not robots, but Baby Ouh! balances cool and kitsch, and mischief and emotion, in a way that’s satisfying, not just predictable.

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