While Serge Gainsbourg's influence on Momus had already been clearly felt, Hippopotamomus is a flat-out tribute to the legendarily sleazy French songwriter. Notoriously billed as "a record about sex for children," it landed Momus in hot water both in the music press (over the absurd cannibalism fantasy "I Ate a Girl Right Up") and the courtroom. It doesn't pay to note, on record, the resemblance between a corporate mascot and an inflatable doll, which is why all unsold copies containing the song "Michelin Man" were destroyed. All the controversy is perhaps the most-fitting memorial to Gainsbourg, but his fingerprints are all over the music, too. Sometimes they're subtle -- like the title track's indirect reference to the scatological puns on Gainsbourg's 1973 track "L'Hippopodame" -- but are also immediately obvious in the record's basic sound and gleeful seaminess. Momus mutters and murmurs the bulk of his vocals (à la Gainsbourg) over sensuous, rhythmic (albeit electronic) backing tracks; though he does stick to modern electro-pop, the style is less club-oriented than Don't Stop the Night. The songs adopt a provocatively amoral tone, and the narrators often share Gainsbourg's obsession with young girls (as, apparently, did Momus, who began his affair with the teenage Shazna Nessa not too long after). There isn't as much character development as before, with the concepts played more for dark comedy. But there's a little more to it, as demonstrated on the bizarre "A Monkey for Sallie." The titular pet spends most of its time wreaking havoc and satisfying its erotic appetites, and eventually comes to symbolize a frank, childish delight in playing dirty. That feeling pervades most of the record, adding a subtle lightheartedness to all the salacious intimations. Overall, Hippopotamomus is deftly realized, playful and darkly comic, with its imagination uncensored (well, except for "Michelin Man").
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AllMusic Review by Steve Huey