Heavily influenced by the robotic-sounding Die Geniale Dilletanten ("Genius Dilettantes") performance movement of early-'80s Berlin, Brezel's casually experimental, almost primitive "techno" was the perfect counterpoint to Cactus's sloppy pop minimalism. Before long, the two were inseparable, and they'd recorded their first song — a 15-minute innuendo called "Recette de cuisine" ("Kitchen Recipe") that confounded German listeners' dance-music/grunge tastes with double entendres and rhymes that slinked through the speakers like a walking French accent.
"Humor is the greatest human intellectual capability that you can have. It gives a distance from you and the thing," says Cactus, describing Stereo Total's writing process. "I am sitting in my room and I am crying like crazy because my love is gone and I feel so lonely. I'm not going to sit down and say, 'I am so sorry, I am crying, blah blah.' It is too boring for me."
Baby Ouh!'s songs unfold and crinkle like a Bazooka comic that might inadvertently offer some wisdom. Sung in Japanese, "Alaska" describes the concerns of a disinterested robot lover against a backdrop of cheap disco beat and bleating oscillator. "Hello Ladies" is destructively tasteless — fried with a mutated keyboard riff while Cactus describes a deviant singing from a woman's bathroom. Cue color swirls and calliope chimes. "Illegal" shows what they can do with a drum and guitar groove so elemental, most bands nowadays wouldn't think they'd even begun yet. If anything, the pair's music remains as intentionally amateurish and disposable as it was in its earliest days.
So if you've grown too comfortable with your polished indie rock, or too numb from your glossy techno beats, Stereo Total are here to wake you from your stupor. For Cactus, life in the band is more than a pastime. "I like it when a band is not just playing music on the weekend, but when they come from a special world. The Cramps were always watching horror movies and living in a special world. And also what they were wearing, it's all a world. Then there is some bass player, and every Saturday they are playing in bands. For me, it's not so interesting."
She's right: Stereo Total really don't look like musicians. Brushed onto the canvas with big pop-art strokes and standing too close to each other, Cactus and Göring are the nearest we're going to get to Velma and Scooby Doo trying their hand at a minimal rock set-up on stage. It's almost too much to believe that cartoon characters could be so smart. But let's not forget: the Mystery Machine gang did solve challenging mysteries.
STEREO TOTAL + AD FRANK AND THE FAST EASY WOMEN + THINK ABOUT LIFE | Middle East downstairs, 480 Mass Ave, Cambridge | August 26 at 8 pm | $15 | 617.864.3278 or mideastclub.com