Stereo Total

Oh Ah!

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Stereo Total's 1995 debut album, Oh Ah!, re-released in 2003 by Kill Rock Stars with bonus tracks, introduces the band's shabbily glamorous, multilingual, and multi-culti mix of pop and punk more or less fully formed, albeit slightly messier than the group's later albums. Oh Ah! focuses more on the rougher side of their music, to gloriously all-over-the-place effect on the cute-but-tough punk ye-ye of "Miau Miau" and the strutting, androgynous "Comme un Garçon." However, a fair amount of time is also devoted to their wide-ranging pop, spanning the typewriter-punctuated love song "Dactylo Rock" and the quirky Europop of "C'Est la Mort" in Oh Ah!'s first two tracks alone. Despite the lovely sheen of "Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M'En Vais," most of the album is less ambitious and polished than Stereo Total's later work, but that doesn't hamper its charms in the slightest. In fact, the cheap keyboards, fuzzy guitars, and rudimentary percussion and production only give Oh Ah! an indie immediacy and friendliness that was missing on later albums like Musique Automatique. A '50s tinge colors songs ranging from the brisk pop of "Moi Je Joue" to the lovely ballad "Morose" to the twangy "Johnny" to the Euro-punkabilly of "Souvenir Souvenir"; "À L'Amour Comme à la Guerre" is a very rough take on country. Oh Ah! introduces Stereo Total's tradition of unique covers: while their version of Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It" might be the most notorious of the songs they reworked, their lo-fi, Eurotrash disco version of KC & the Sunshine Band's "Get Down Tonight" and their sweet, simple rendition of the Tee Set's "Ma Belle Amie" (known here as "Belami") are just as witty, if not more so. A sprawling album, Oh Ah! also features directions the group rarely repeated, such as the spare, bluesy "Dans le Parc," which is no less affecting because of its difference from the rest of Stereo Total's work. The bonus tracks on the 2003 edition of the album only make it even more sprawling, but fortunately the band's B-sides are nearly as good as its album tracks. "Carte Postale" is a cover of the Rivieras' early-'60s classic "California Sun" set in sunny St. Tropez; "Avec Ma Valise" is probably one of the only country-pop songs sung en Français; and the version of "Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M'En Vais" with Alex Chilton is very different than, but just as good as, the album track. Still a remarkably fresh album, Oh Ah! is an exciting debut, and a starting point from which Stereo Total would just keep getting better.

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