This is the shorter (by half) of two Stereo Total re-releases on Kill Rock Stars. And Juke-Box Alarm is by far the sleeker. Where the record that followed it, My Melody, was a killing and basic disco stomp-around, this is the one that, in 1998, saw them expand themselves for the future.
The old Stereo Total was as cool as hell. This release catches them on the verge of their change into widescreen, something that needed to happen lest their style become archaic and immune to furthering. So consequently we see some changes cropping up here and there. Opening track "Holiday Inn" starts off as a slightly childish rant about the intrigue and anonymity of such an establishment, but soon becomes a rather slinky electronica scuttle. And the strange departures keep coming. The following number, "Comicstripteasegirl", uses (pardon me whilst I grapple with my own pleasant bewilderment) nice chunky and punky guitar licks! Apparently, the Stereo Total that were so happy to just electrify the sixties catalogue have branched out a little.
And of course, with experimentation comes the well-meaning failures. "Heaven's In The Back Of My Cadillac" leaden and lifeless, more akin to a chundering Taxi with an arrogant French driver rather than the magisterial cool the title implies. A cheesy mess. But salvation is near, the closing weird-out, "Holiday Out" (ooh, they are witty on the continent!) is a claustrophobic spazz-attack that sounds like the death of Nintendo had it been killed in 1990.
While not being their most consistent record to date, Juke-Box Alarm does have the definite merits of enjoyable brevity and enchanting experimentation, all the while still containing that Stereo Total thing of making it all sound like pop genius. There are flat moments, but most of this is ace. Worth having just for imagining that this is what Europe is like all overů (It's not, though. Sorry.)
- Daniel Ross | 2006-03-29