STEREO TOTAL with the OCTOPUS PROJECT at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Tuesday (August 28). $13.50. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
It's no secret that euro electro- rock duo Stereo Total are obsessives, culture-crazed magpies who can't wait to incorporate allusions to their esoteric passions into their tunes.
The band's first proper recording took the form of a sexified musical recipe, 10 minutes of kitchen-related double entendres. And it's no coincidence that the movie buffs - Stereo pair Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring have hosted shindigs at Berlin's Volksbühne theatre paying homage to Tati and Godard - were picked to pen tunes (including the theme) for 02 film-fanatic documentary Cinemania.
"Our music shows what we like," Cactus purrs over the phone from Berlin. "Yes, we take our music seriously, but we want our lyrics to be a little bit funny. We like to have an ironical distance from things."
But there's a curious topical undercurrent on the 14 chiming garage-pop tracks that make up Stereo Total's swingin' new Paris-Berlin (Kill Rock Stars) disc.
With songs about Patty Hearst, Lolita and dialogue from Bruce LaBruce's porn-o-lutionary skin flick The Raspberry Reich mixed in among groovy numbers about boredom and fucking, you start to feel as though Stereo Total is on a mission to rehabilitate the reputations of historically misunderstood femmes fatales.
"With Patty Hearst, we were fascinated by the story and thought it was really crazy," says Cactus, her smoky French-accented voice made throatier by the cold she's fighting. "Every year we do a special show at the Volksbühne, so this time we did a musical based on her life story.
"When I saw a picture [of Patty Hearst], I thought, 'This woman is a chameleon - she can look so bourgeois, and then like Che Guevara.'
"I didn't know anything about her then," she continues, "but after that I found out about the kidnapping and the bank robberies and how nobody knows if she was brainwashed or made the choices herself. She's so different from a lot of rich women. She's also in some movies by John Waters; the best is when she plays a police officer."
Cactus chuckles huskily.
"We only took one or two songs from the musical - we didn't want this to be our Patty Hearst record."
If anything, Paris-Berlin was intended to be Stereo Total's back-to-their-roots album, rough and raw and recorded live on real instruments in their "studio-cellar."
"Berlin is now the capital of electronic music, but everyone is using the same sounds," giggles Cactus. "It is as boring as shit to me. We wanted our record to sound like a live show."
The woman's Lolita lust, however, goes way, way back. Before Stereo Total was a twinkle in her eye, Cactus played in a garage rock band known as the Lolitas. She insists Nabokov's novel isn't about molesting children, but the tale of a strong proto-woman who is "an actor, and a guy is the victim. It's a story of the child taking the power."
In addition to the Paris-Berlin track Lolita Fantome, Cactus has explored that fascination through the creation of a giant knit doll dubbed Woolita.
The sculpture caused a huge scandal in Berlin when the nubile knit darling became the centrepiece of a group exhibition. Apparently, a trashy newspaper caught wind of Woolita's literary inspiration and ran with it.
"There was a giant photo of her on the front page under the headline 'Scandale! Kinder [Child] Porno Exhibition.' It was funny for me, but not good for other people. One artist in the show was a teacher, and the paper said, 'Should a man like that teach our kids?'
"We decided to protest," Cactus continues, sounding smug. "This paper has a cultural prize every year, and we decided our puppet must win this time. We got a lot of people to sign this petition, and that was good.
"After that, Woolita recorded an album, all about wool, and started writing her life story. It's called From A Ball Of Wool To A Superstar."
Additional Interview Audio Clips
Francoise talks about the biggest debacle that happened on Stereo Total's curious tour opening for the Strokes
Francoise explains how Stereo Total ended up getting Bruce LaBruce's blessing to "borrow" snippets from his revolutionary porno The Raspberry Reich for the Paris-Berlin track Baby Revolution
How Stereo Total try manage make things feel new and exciting for themselves after keeping it together as a band for over 14 years
Francoise explains why Stereo Total decided to keep it raw and organic for Paris-Berlin
Music Clips from Stereo Total's new album Paris-Berlin