There's something about Stereo Total that threatens to be just too precious for their own good. It's probably all those cheery high-pitched electronic beeps and all that fascination with little toy keyboards, and hip young thing Françoise Cactus singing merrily about love and robots in French, German and entirely-too-cute broken English. And it's true that a lot of Musique Automatique
can get old really fast. However, many of these songs, for all their toy-piano adorableness, have the soul of good ol' three-chord rockers -- and that can be refreshing enough to wash down plenty of Casio-fueled sugariness.
Not that the Francophone electropop numbers here are anything to sneeze at -- though they can often seem like elaborate rhyming exercises, "Automatic Music" and "L'Amour À 3" are catchy and entirely danceable. (The English translation of the latter, which appears at the end of the disc, is lame and unnecessary, as is the Turkish(!) translation of another song.) The glitchy chant of "Wir Tanzen Im 4-Eck" is where things start to get really interesting, though; a bit later, the snotty, electrified garage-pop number "Forever 16" is where the rock truly kicks into gear. Its sardonic celebration of girliness leads into "Je Suis Une Poupée", a frenetic '60s-style pop song about a "docile doll" that, if my translation isn't completely off, threatens to kill and eat its owners if they don't pay attention to her. Now, if that isn't rock and roll...
There's more fun to be had here, especially with the Shangri-Las-by-way-of-Berlin fuzzed-out vibe of "Ich Weiss Nicht Mehr Genau", and "Nationale 7", a sunny road-trip song. It would be great if Musique Automatique ended right after the watery robot ode "Ypsilon", but there are another twenty-odd minutes of translations of earlier songs, remixes, and anemic-sounding B-sides to follow. Ignore those, though, and set the middle rock-out portion of the record on repeat -- that's a more appropriate focus on Stereo Total's strengths, and serves as an apt reminder that sweet and sour are each fine on their own, but often go best together.