A new Stereo Total album is a guilty pop pleasure. Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring’s ninth proper album Baby Ouh!, released on Kill Rock Stars, is self-described as “romantic and rebellious” with a “hysterical glamour” chic that oozes through junkshop keyboards and excessive pop art conceits. Their song “Andy Warhol” features the artist’s remarks, “uh, yes,” “uh, no,” “huh, well I hadn’t thought about it,” as opening sound bites on a bright electric bell ringer. “Divine’s Handbag” digs through a hilarious descriptive list of the icon’s attaché accoutrements with the fat and sassy rationale of, “why not, why not, so chic, so bleak, so pretty, so dirty.” The album is an exercise in the flirtations and fancies the two have with both high and low brow conceits that tow the line of the painfully hip and exceedingly fashionable, never straying far from the trash-glam aesthetic continuum.
The Berlin/French duo pays a great homage to pivotal idol Brigitte Fontaine on “La Barbe À Papa” along with scores more of their beloved heroes throughout the album. Spain’s Olé Olé has their hit “No Controles” reworked into a don’t-tread-on-me power song and 1950s Italian chanteuse Rita Pavone gets a breakneck, rebellious, electro bathed rendering of “Wenn Ich Ein Junge Wär.” T. Rex receives a quirky update on the Pedro Almodovar cover “I Wanna Be a Mama.” Cactus coos about the Dandyette ice princess paradigm with “Lady Dandy,” accompanied by low key and sparse organ sequences. If the duo were already devout fans/followers of “trash ascetic” indie icon Lawrence during his 90s years as Denim, then Baby Ouh! have shifted their influence to his more recent novelty pop outfit Go-Kart Mozart. This is evident by their further wild, cheap Casio obsessions and electric marmalade odysseys heard on the carnival that is “Hello Ladies,” the bird chirping and self-obsessed poutiness of “Du Bist Gut Zu Vögeln,” the keyboard and deadpans on “Andy Warhol” and the loopy synths on “Wenn Ich Ein Junge Wär.” These songs resemble Lawrence penned sketches that would be right at home on either one of GKM’s Instant Wigwam and Igloo Mixture or Tearing Up the Album Charts albums.
At times the pop hook harmonies blend into each other, namely the choruses from both “Alaska” and “Du Bist Gut Zu Vögeln”, which sounded faintly alike. Perhaps in the zany, irreverent realm of Stereo Total this can be heard as thematic underscoring. And speaking of themes, lots of “baby” business all over the album (“Babyboom Ohne Mich,” “I Wanna be a Mama,” “Baby Ouh!”). They either have maternal clocks on their minds or are continuing their Gainsbourgian penchant for France Gall fashioned twee “Baby Pop.” I'm thinking it's probably the latter.
If you are dogmatic and serious about whom you share your self–induced and indulged musical sovereignty, then Baby Ouh! might not be for you. But if you want to hear a Euro-centric skim of the brightest corners of pop’s histories on a candy high, the ride is all yours.