If music is the universal language, Stereo Total is working overtime to bring the far corners of the world together. Band members Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring hail from France and Germany respectively; not content to pick one's language over the other's, they sing in both French and German. And English. And, on occasion, Polish.
The lyric sheet to Stereo Total's latest, Paris-Berlin, offers translations for the non-English tracks, and proves that the duo possesses a wry sense of humor that is also universal. In "Komplex Mit Dem Sex," Cactus sings in a happy chirp that contradicts the song's message: "I've got a sex complex / my libido is a fiasco / I don't know: am I a man, am I a woman or an animal?"
The subject of libido creeps up many times throughout the album. "Miss Rébellion Des Hormones" depicts a teen's libido, while "Lolita Fantôme" takes Nabokov's character and turns her into a ghost who taunts men before disappearing into the night; "Baby Revolution" takes its lyrics from a gay porn film by Bruce La Bruce. On an earlier album, Cactus sang an ode to a ménage a trois that included a montage of sensual moans and cat yowls over the mechanical beat.
Like Serge Gainsbourg, the ribald French singer who the duo have covered here and on previous records, Stereo Total might be raunchy, but moments like these prove the pair shouldn't be taken too seriously. When they're not singing about the nasty, the two are equally literate on the subjects of Patty Hearst, chewing gum and the power of rock 'n' roll.
Even if it hadn't offered an English lyric sheet on Paris-Berlin, Stereo Total's music would be just as accessible. Cactus and Göring combine garage rock, vintage pop, electronica and the healthy dose of kitsch that comes with using burbling synthesizers and vintage drum machines. Like the languages, the musical combinations vary from song to song -- Cactus isn't above blaring atonally on a trumpet to evoke the raspy smoker in "Ich Bin Der Stricherjunge."
Stereo Total has often included additional members to recreate the expansive sound of its albums. But Cactus and Göring have been making it as a duo lately, using guitar, drums and sampler, "played by two people sounding like a herd of horses on cheap drugs," according to the act's press release.
And that's not a translation. Stereo Total means it.
Stereo Total with The Octopus Project. 8 p.m. Wed., Aug. 29. The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St., North Side. $12. 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org