‘Eccentric’ doesn’t seem a particularly accurate descriptor for Quentin Dupieux. ‘Calculatedly batshit,’ perhaps. Dupieux’s work, both as a film director and as a musician (under the cutesy, self-consciously tongue-in-cheek moniker Mr. Oizo) displays all the signs of a distinctly unhinged personality, yet rarely possesses the gripping danger of authentically deranged work. There’s little risk in his carefully cultivated weirdness, because that initial everything-but-the-kitchen-sink impression fades away as it becomes clear that Dupieux always ends up erring on the side of caution. Attempts at submitting to truly subconscious expression, therefore, feel hollow. Stade 2 follows this trend, offering a batch of superficially off-kilter synth lines atop very basic four-on-the-floor beats — see: “Douche Beat,” “Datsun,” and “Cheeree,” among others. But what sets this album apart from its predecessors is how uniformly conventional these tracks all are, as if Dupieux has, at long last, stopped confusing disjointedness with actual compelling randomness.
Which would be an improvement were said disjointed moments not the most interesting aspects of Dupieux’s previous work. No matter how unsuccessful “Blind Concerto,” the closer of 2008’s Lambs Anger, may have been at getting any real musical ideas across, at least it sounded intriguing, however superficially. The only track on Stade 2 that comes close to displaying such blatant disregard for tradition is “EDN,” a flimsy little sketch of a song consisting of nothing more than a computer robotically exhorting “everybody dance now” and some spastic sixteenth notes. In a pop climate where such flippancy can be found with more finesse all over All Everyone United, Dupieux’s statement feels both shallow and lazy. Virtually every other ‘composition’ here — if we can call them that — follows the structure of Lambs Anger’s excellent “Positif.” But whereas “Positif” was blessed with both something resembling a real hook and a few enjoyably provocative lines (“arr&ecurc;ter de vous reproduire, ovus êtes des animaux, vous allez crever”), the aforementioned “Douche Beat” merely pairs a squelching synthesizer with a horrendously dull beat that a mechanical voice — the same bored one that asked listeners to dance — insists is “a beat for the douches.” At the very least, it seems as if Oizo’s got his demographic figured out.
That’s good for him, but pretty rotten for us, especially considering that by whittling what little artistry he may have had to a cookie-cutter formula, Dupieux has committed a cardinal sin: He has made an album that, despite its hallucinogenic tendencies, is painfully boring. The pitches he works with may appear appealingly unsystematic, but across Stade 2’s impossibly interminable 32-minute runtime, they fall into predictable patterns, sounding not only hopelessly repetitive, but also derivative — not only of others, but of Oizo himself. There’s nothing strong enough to make “SKA” anything but a rehash of countless other half-hearted tracks undoubtedly floating around on Dupieux’s hard drive, and its Seinfeld-by-way-of-Kraftwerk-on-speed bassline was done exponentially better by Rustie on Glass Swords. Even the strongest tracks here are marred by gross missteps: “Oral Sax” is a legitimately good banger that wouldn’t sound out of place on SebastiAn’s Total, but it opens with an unnecessary and awful-sounding saxophone sample from one of the Oizo-produced monstrosities from Uffie’s 2010 debut. Ultimately, Stade 2 is a record with a clearly defined aesthetic sense and absolutely no idea where to take it — and for music this resolutely one-dimensional, such aimlessness is fatal.