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Stereo Total

Baby Ouh!

(Kill Rock Stars; US: 4 May 2010; UK: Import)

Baby Ouh! has a few baby ouch! moments.

Stereo Total is known for being a less Marxist, less spacey version of Stereolab. There’s plenty of Franco-German electropop music to go around, and Baby Ouh! is no exception. It is impressive that the band, now simply a duo, manages to eke out such full sounds with only two musicians in the mix. More impressive still is that the band can be prolific this way—while they recorded 40 songs for the album, 17 made the cut and comprise the French band’s latest release. Although the songs are short, the album remains in need of editing to highlight the especially awesome tracks and cull the fold.


The most fun tracks are classic Stereo Total. “Violent Love” is adorably reminiscent of Do the Bambi‘s “I Am Naked”. Actually featuring acoustic instruments, François Cactus has never sounded better than when she sings, “I wanna make violent love to you”. “I Wanna Be a Mama” (mostly delivered by Cactus’ male partner, Brezel Göring) is another winner, featuring doo-wop backing vocals and extraterrestrial synth sweeps. “Barbe À Papa” (the French term for cotton candy) is as light and airy as the carnival treat for which it’s named.  “Lady Dandy” is a standout track because it’s slower than the rest of the album, giving listeners a chance to slow down and shake off all that post-dancing sweat.


The worst moments on Baby Ouh! are cluttered and noisy.  If they offer hooks, those hooks are buried under noise that seems there for the sake of noise. “Larmes du Métal” is one such song, psychedelic synths swallowing the rest of the song. “Babyboom Ohne Mich” is perhaps the worst offender, with uninspired music and vocals that include screaming for no apparent reason. “Elle Te Bottent, Mes Bottes?” is a largely unsuccessful attempt at speed-pop. These three songs could have easily been removed to make a more respectable 14-track album that still had all the charm of Stereo Total at their best.


At 17 tracks of similar music, the songs are bound to blur together. Not only that, but the songs are so much alike that there’s no way this album can be successfully epic. Lengthy albums require a perfect balance of cohesiveness and deviance, and Baby Ouh! fails to achieve that balance. Perhaps working as a prolific duo is showing its limitations. Without fresh input, a band can easily become complacent and repetitive in their sound. And ater recording 40 songs, one has to wonder how high—or low—the bar was set for which tracks would make the final cut.

Rating:

Erin Lyndal Martin is a poet, fiction writer, music journalist, and music promotional writer. She runs http://www.euterpesnotebook.com and can be reached on Twitter @erinlyndal.


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