Stereo Total Juke-Box Alarm

[Kill Rock Stars; 2006]

Styles: pastiche pop, glee punk, globokitsch
Others: The Go! Team, Clinic, The Flaming Lips, somehow Ace of Base as well

Normally, when I have a record to review, I station myself at a writing desk, dim the lights, press play, and tap my forehead Winnie the Pooh-style, doing my best to give the album the honest, perspicacious, open-minded, serious, earnest, and committed critical attention it deserves. Stereo Total laughs in my face. They squirt a watergun at my crotch, and then they make a lot of noise with guitars and drums and synthesizers. I giggle; I dance; I do the snorkel, baby. This carries on for about 16 songs ”” a melt-in-your-mouth 45 minutes of poppy abandon ”” and then I laugh and laugh and wish I was touring dirty Düsseldorf hostels with them. Juke-Box Alarm, re-released by Kill Rock Stars, woke me up from my critical doldrums, gobbled my nickels, and propped me up with trashy neon companionship when I was drunk and danced out. My Melody, a simultaneous re-release, came in afterward to make me feel sad, sexed up, and happy about all that had gone before, taking the exuberance of its predecessor and sublimating it into a kooky assortment of covers and lovelorn originals.

I gush because this international four-piece lampoons chunks of pop history and then laces them together like a beat-up pair of roller derby skates, and it seems like they do it just for the sheer fun of it. Each song is a perfectly corrupt little oddity comprised of trashy keyboard, ebullient guitar, and polyglot lyrics that treat such classic themes as cars, boyfriends, sex, makeup, and, um, the birth of the universe. The shtick is expertly managed ”” each song darts into your heart and animates your legs and lips for two minutes (or less) for its benign, sleazy purposes, making you long for more, more, more with a side order of coke (not the soda) and fries. Trying to summarize the sound of these 16 songs only does them prudish injustice ”” each dances on crazy legs that can do the splits across the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, and early '90s. Frankie Avalon would have hand-jived to "Crazy Horse" in his little orange swim trunks, but he and Annette would be completely baffled by "Vertigo"'s dirty Deutschelektronikmusik on downers. "Party Anticonformiste" rubs sequined shoulders with New Order's "Blue Monday" and the Bee Gees, but closer "Holiday Out" works as a madcap medley of all that precedes it and somehow seems as if it was pinched from a Kurtis Blow demo. Françoise Cactus sings savvy/sappy Gainsbourg charmers and effusive drive-in rock in a homely, irresistible coo that makes so many of the songs comical, ugly, and addicting all at once. Combine that voice with magic marker drawings of sea monsters in the liner notes, coy digs at their own indie fans, and a punkish disregard for precision, and you have a record that you will feel so cool loving when your friends tell you to turn it off. Duh ”” music is fun! Criticism is for dweebs, ma cherie.

1. Holiday Inn
2. Comicstripteasegirl
3. Sweet Charlotte
4. Touche-moi
5. Crazy Horse
6. Supercool
7. Les Minets
8. Oh Yeah
9. Film d'Horreur
10. Vertigo
11. Heaven in the Back Seat of my Cadillac
12. Der Schlüssel
13. Nouvelle Vague
14. Party Anticonformiste
15. Holiday Out