Cosmopop: European Music with a Global Flavor

The Concretes.

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Europop groups are increasingly sharing a global music vocabulary, adding their own madcap cosmopolitan flavor to familiar genres. Music critic John Brady profiles German group Stereo Total, The Pinkertones from Spain and Swedish combo The Concretes.

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Thanks to the Internet and other global media, music trends shoot around the world at blinding speeds. And, some pretty interesting musical identities are the result. Music critic John Brady has this whirlwind tour of something called Pop Cosmopolitanism. He's found three recent releases from Europe.

(Soundbite of music)

JOHN BRADY reporting:

Germany's Stereo Total is fronted by the thrift-store chanteuse Françoise Cactus. The band has been around since the mid-1990s, releasing a slew of albums along the way. Two of the best of them have recently been re-released.

(Soundbite of music by Stereo Total)

BRADY: There is a madcap cosmopolitan quality to everything the band Stereo Total does. They make a gleeful racket, smashing together French chanson, American garage rock, and Beatle-esque pop, with Casio keyboard vamps and quirky computer sampling.

(Soundbite of music by Stereo Total)

BRADY: Stereo Total are cheeky polyglots. By contrast, Mister Furia and Professor Manso, the Spanish duo who make up the second band on our tour, The Pinker Tones, play the role of sophisticated international playboys, suave and soulful.

(Soundbite of music by The Pinker Tones)

THE PINKER TONES: (Singing) Wake up. Wake up, baby. Wake up, get on your feet and shout. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

BRADY: The Pinker Tones' second full-length album is called The Million Colour Revolution. The album glorifies in mixing the old and the new, for example, 1970's TV funk and tightly crafted dance beat. Running through all of the songs are a tongue-in-cheek retro-coolness and a full-speed-ahead funkiness. It's a zoom-zoom Ferrari, lava lamp, Sly Stone aesthetic, if you will.

(Soundbite of music by The Pinker Tones)

BRADY: Finally, we travel north to Sweden, the home of The Concretes. The band recently released the delightful album, In Colour. The album is effused with sweet melancholy. Lead singer, Victoria Bergsman, sings with a delicate huskiness about bittersweet memories and missed romantic chances.

(Soundbite of music by The Concretes)

Ms. VICTORIA BERGSMAN (Singer): (Singing) I don't know about falling in love, 'cause it comes within, I've been told. When it comes to falling in love, it runs me over.

BRADY: To great effect, the band uses strings, horns, and reeds to broaden the record's already impressive emotional palate. This album is dedicated to and revels in the expressive power of pop music. Or, as the band sings on the last song, this is an album for the songs, the songs we had to love.

(Soundbite of song "Song For The Songs")

Ms. BERGSMAN: (Singing) Here's a voice you can't stop listening to, 'cause it touches like a lover. And the strings come in and ask you not to move, (Unintelligible).

BRADY: The rhythms and melodies of pop, soul, funk, rock, and all the rest have become part of our globe's musical language. People fret that this can only lead to a homogenous one-dimensional culture. These three groups enjoyably demonstrate a different lesson. Just because we can speak the same language doesn't mean we will all end up sounding the same.

(Soundbite of song "Song For The Songs")

BRAND: Music from The Concretes. We also heard from Stereo Total and The Pinker Tones. John Brady is a music critic living in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of song "Song For The Songs")

BRAND: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from I'm Madeleine Brand.

CHADWICK: And I'm Alex Chadwick.

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