STEREO TOTAL - Monokini (1997)

By the time of 1997's Monokini Stereo Total had refined its sound, tightening up from the fuzzy, sprawling beginnings heard on Oh Ah! Indeed, it would have been difficult for them to get any looser without falling apart altogether, but fortunately they didn't sacrifice much spontaneity for smoothness. Songs like the Serge Gainsbourg-meets-Pulp pop of "Supergirl" and the stomping rock of "Lunatique" are as vibrant as anything off of the group's debut, but the more complex songwriting and cleaner sound reflect the progress Stereo Total made since that album. And while the album has its share of fizz-bomb punk like "Aua," "Tu M'As Voulue," and "LA, CA, USA," Monokini's focus on electronics, pop, and ballads makes it a very different beast than Oh Ah! The album's opening track, "Ach Ach Liebling," reveals this trend quickly: its spare production, fuzzy synths, and linear melody make it quite a departure from the noisy bounce of the previous album. "Schön Von Hinten" is another landmark track, boasting a cut-n-paste production that recalls a European version of Pizzicato Five's Shibuya-kei sound (indeed, the song also appears in Japanese, as "Ushilo Sugata Ga Kilei," toward the end of the album). High-strung electro-pop makes up a good chunk of Monokini, from the playful, aptly named "Cosmonaute" to the rapid-motion clockwerks of "Und Wer Wird Sich Um Mich Kümmern" to the sparkly electronic bossa nova of "Moustique." These electronic dabblings highlight the retro -- but far from conservative -- naïveté of Stereo Total's music while taking it in a direction that influenced every album that followed Monokini. "Dilindam," meanwhile, isn't groundbreaking, but it is one of Stereo Total's most charming pop songs, a love story set in a rainstorm that sounds like it could be from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. A significant step forward for Stereo Total, Monokini brought some order and polish to the group's sound; for the rest of its career, the band alternated between the smooth pop leanings of this album and the rougher, punkier sound of Oh Ah!, often within the course of one album. Fans of My Melody and especially Musique Automatique who were previously unable to find Monokini will find it an especially fun and rewarding look back now. Heather Phares (All Music Guide)

01 Ach Ach Liebling
02 Lunatique
03 Supergirl
04 Furore
05 Schön von hinten
06 Dilindam
07 Cosmonaute
08 Aua
09 Und wer wird sich um mich kümmern?
10 Tu m'as volue
11 Moustique
12 LA, CA, USA
13 L'appareil a sous
14 Grand Prix Eurovision
15 Ushilo Sugata Ga Kilei 

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