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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Stereo Total
Do the Bambi
Kill Rock Stars

Rating: 7/10 ?

June 30, 2005
Stereo Total is composed of two main members, one of whom is French (Francoise Cactus, vocals, synth, etc.) and the other German (Brezel Goring, vocals, synth, guitar, etc.). Despite the barriers that stand in the way of fluid communication and artistic preferences, I get this band. Music is music, and Do the Bambi proves that art rock can be both obvious and alien at the same time.

Stereo Total has a sound familiar to, but unlike, any other band of the present. Comparisons will undoubtedly be offered towards Stereolab and Le Tigre, but upon closer examination, Cactus and Goring craft a song profile more fluid and intimately personal. Through mindless listening, what comes across during the course of Do the Bambi is a group of synth pop, artsy rock tunes. Over all, the band's sound is defined through its detailed instrumentation - both dirty garage rock drums and guitar, primitive electronic Casio sounding beats, Theremin and reverbed tube amp 50s lounge guitar (likened to those found in Esquivel compositions) and blippy synth sounds.

In a way, this album is perfectly enjoyable when listened to on a superficial level - after all, Cactus sings a song called "Cinemania" in which she names iconic film personalities from around the worl,d such as James Dean, Jean-Luc Godard and Sophia Loren. At other moments, Cactus is soft yet ironic and laughable, as when she sings in "I am Naked": "I am naked…mmh mmh/My neighbor's at the window/Who cares?/It's only natural (with no additives)". Anyone can enjoy these segments.

Simplicity creates a veil for other topics and song structures to have more of a creative effect. The lead track ("Babystrich") is about a 13-year-old prostitute who sells herself to old men for dope money. In other contexts, this would be fodder for psychological analysis, but Stereo Total dresses the song in danceable synth pop clothes. In addition, Goring sings the entire thing in falsetto, as if to say they are just telling a casual story of these tragic circumstances that happen all the time. There is no heartbreak or emotional distress; it's just a different view of reality.

The alien dimension of Stereo Total's version of art rock has plenty to do with song content, but not just because I never took French or German in high school (for the record, 14 out of 19 songs contain some or all French or German lyrics.) Instead, moments like those found in the title track provide a barrier through lyrical content. Only one song removed from singing about a desperate adolescent hooker, Cactus sings the following: "You broke my heart in two/I didn't know what to do/But after all these tears/Now I know it clear/B.A.M.B.I.D.O./Do the Bambi". It is tolerable to make bright synth pop tunes, but to try and be cute through cheesy clichés is unforgivable.

Cactus and Goring's can afford to stay away from such adorably stretched lyrics, because the often soft and carefully articulated French and German dialects are attractive and defining enough even without comprehension. Other moments, such as a cover of Nico & Velvet Underground's "Chelsea Girls", the infectious "Tas de Tole" and chaotic synth punk "Ne M'Appelle Pas Ta Liche" are high points that show Stereo Total can break through to any audience, any language and any culture.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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