Wed May 25
10 SW 3rd
Though they seem generally hesitant to admit it, it's easy to get the sense that a good many Europeans romanticize the notion of America. Take, for example, Europe's selective interest in American popular music over the last quarter century: Reigning exports include the thuggish, violent urban assault of punk rock, the backwoods, logger-savant of the grunge movement, and the clattering wildman blues of the garage revival--all styles that serve to concrete America's unruly, Cowboys and Indians mythos. (Further evidence: country, the blues, and ol' rock and roll.) As Americans, we realize there is absolutely no romance in our plight--and many of us, in return, turn to Europe for our notions of romanticism, musical or otherwise.
What this muddled exposition is meant to be getting at has to do with my long-held conflictions about the music of Berlin's Stereo Total--a kitchen sink electro-pop duo that began amassing their rather substantial cult over a decade ago. And despite my wary affection, I can't entirely decide where I stand with them. Like Stereolab, Stereo Total's songs often feel more like careful amassments of a wide array of influences than original handiworks--resulting in a catalog of high standard, but also of placid consistency. Fusing a half-century of American rock 'n' roll with a decoupage of European influence (French pop, British Invasion, electro-pop, etc., etc., ad infinitum), Stereo Total's exuberant discography glows brilliantly with its Euro-aloofness--a plasticine song set so undeniably infectious that it's difficult not to be bitten by the bug.
But it's here where my troubles begin: Is it just me, or does Stereo Total's kitschy, multi-lingual name-checking and detached, Euro-mutt aesthetic feel like a crafted approximation of everything that lazy American Europhiles romanticize 'cross the Atlantic? Couple that with the particular American rock pastiche that weaves through their sound, I start to feel a little like they're subtly feeding us our own shit--and like we're eating it with gusto. I know, I know, I'm over-thinking this--Stereo Total's records are totally great, and their live show even better. Still, do you ever get the feeling you've been cheated?