German isn't exactly rock 'n' roll's mother tongue, and French isn't much more apropos. Yet multilingual European quartet Stereo Total gets away with singing principally in those languages, with only occasional forays into English. Of course, the group's style isn't exactly rock. Though sometimes noisy or driving, Stereo Total's music is rooted in such eccentric precedents as the songs of Gallic weirdo Serge Gainsbourg. In fact, there are two Gainsbourg tunes among the 18 short and bouncy tracks on the band's new "My Melody."
The album's other obsessions include synth-pop, European torch songs, Japanese pop and the Beatles. Between them, principal singers Francois Cactus and Angie Reed (with an occasional lead-vocal assist from multi-instrumentalist Bretzel Goring) pull off both the spirit-of-'64 oddity "Ringo, I Love You" and a song with the cumbersome title of "Tu Peux Conduire Ma Bagnole." (The latter translates roughly into the Fab Four's "Drive My Car.") Remarkably, the resulting melange never sounds self-conscious. Stereo Total's place outside the Anglo-American rock continuum allows the band to innocently party like it's 1965.
The answer to the garbled question "Tej Leo(?)" is Ted Leo, former frontman of D.C. power-pop trio Chisel. On his first solo album, "Tej Leo(?), RX/Pharmacists," the singer-songwriter has become an audio cut-up, manipulating samples from his former band (on the opening "Call Off the Invasion/ Flydocious Invasion") and other sources. The result is agreeably playful but ultimately inconclusive.
With forays into dub and samples of the Fugees, UTFO and Gregory Isaacs, this disc is considerably funkier than Leo's previous work. Still, whenever the sampler sport yields to traditional songcraft, the album sounds like rough demos for a Chisel-like band. "The King of Time" and "The Northeast Corridor," for example, suggest early Joe Jackson, one of Chisel's new wave reference points. Leo may have gone digital, but his heart is still in the analog '70s.
Both appearing Monday at the Black Cat with the Pharmacists and the Walker System. To hear a free Sound Bite from Stereo Total, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8128. For a Sound Bite from Tej Leo(?), press 8129. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)