THE BEST POP GROUP IN THE WORLD
by Momus, September 2001
Stereo Total? The best pop group in the world. They remind me of Shakespeare, Picasso and the 1960s. In certain times and places, the world of the royal court includes the energy of the people, formal experimentation embraces populist emotion, and the commercial reaches up to touch the sublime. On ‘Musique Automatique’, Stereo Total fuse the dumb energy of pop culture with the elite salon fizz of high culture. Think of Lou Reed fusing his hack songwriting skills with the avant-gardism of Cale and Warhol, think of Joe Orton writing film scripts for the Beatles, think of the weird cleverness of shows like The Monkees and Batman, think (of course) of Gainsbourg melding left bank cabaret with the sounds of the latest anglo-saxon beat boom.
Stereo Total are a bottomless goldmine of clever ideas, populist yet unpretentious: songs about Satan’s house in London, France’s arterial roads, kleptomania. Françoise Cactus sounds forever young, hard and funny in her lyrics. Bretzel Goring has the genius of simplicity in his music, which revives lost pop tropes like gimmicky sampling, garagey guitar and crunchy distorted snare beats as if they were invented yesterday.
Sure, other bands sell more records with dull, formulaic lyrics and cliched, slick productions. Sure, other artists puzzle their audiences with ultra-minimalism and grey experimentalism. But they’re not as clever or funny as Stereo Total. Their attempts at commercialism and cool are sad in comparison, their lack of ideas and melodies glaringly obvious. Stereo Total – The Best Pop Group In The World – have nothing to declare but their genius.