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Stereo Total - Do The Bambi

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Artist: Stereo Total

Album: Do The Bambi

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Review date: Mar. 15, 2005

"They are admittedly not particularly good, but this only makes them more great," said a friend of coy German cabaret pop duo Stereo Total. "They sound like an arcade game in bad translation, circa 1987. Plus, all their songs are about hardcore fucking. You've gotta love that."

That's the final word on Stereo Total, I guess, except for the "great" part. It doesn't really matter where you start with their latest release, Do The Bambi, but just for the sake of argument let's begin with "I Am Naked," an especially insipid song among 19 insipid songs. This is probably because it's one of those that find Françoise Cactus cooing in a sort of Eurotrash babydoll English, rather than popular French or vampish, and more appropriately so, German. "I am naked... mmh mmh," read the liner notes helpfully. "All naked... so what? That's the way my mother made me, okay?" So it goes for the rest of it, pretty much: Cactus gets her cutesy/cryptic simper on, while Brezel Göring undercuts her – sparsely but incessantly – with vapid, percolating laptop pop. She plays or programs some instruments too; he sings from time to time as well, usually in German and often in call and response with her (and if you thought that boy-girl duet "Nothing Better" from the Postal Service album was overly precious, you have no idea how bad it can get).

Not all the songs are about sex or nudity, which is about as much of a good thing as there is on Do The Bambi; while those in English are consistently stupid ("She stands at Kurfürstenstraße / He gives her twenty Deutschmark / She has long greasy hair / And she looks really cool," from " Babystrich"), the French and/or German numbers gain something either by a vague linguistic exoticism – "Partymädchen gefoltert" at least sounds slightly better than "Tortured Party Girl" – or by slightly better subject matter, as in the vindictive "Ne m'appelle pas ta biche" or the dully misanthropic "La douce humanité." But that doesn't make any of it remotely pleasurable to listen to; the fact that the middle of the album is easier to swallow than the beginning is not an indication of any real improvement, but a sign that you become habituated, or at least desensitized, to its utter lack of creativity or soul.

What's mystifying is the extent to which people seem to agree that you've gotta love Stereo Total for the depth of their badness, that it's been released by a label as respectable (if not quite irreproachable) as Kill Rock Stars, and showing persistently on the Dusted charts. Is ironic enjoyment so overpowering as to make quality irrelevant? I can hardly bring myself to listen to Do The Bambi all the way through, and I'm strangely proud of the fact: I take it as a sign that there's still some standard, somewhere, below which no amount of clever contextualization or imposed irony can make me appreciate something terrible. And Do The Bambi is indeed a terrible album. If that's the joke I don't get it, and if that's the point I don't get it, either.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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