Yello, Stella

Everyone has heard at least one song on this album. In fact, most people have only heard one song on this album, and that's "Oh Yeah," a thematically light but relentlessly earwormy synthogroove nowadays synonymous with gluttonous indulgence (and Ferris Bueller). Indeed, this album was an attempt to get past their sometimes excessively autostimulatory early style (see, particularly, Solid Pleasure), and while for the general listening audience they only hit pay dirt once, there's certainly more here to enjoy than merely that. Yello's trademark affected spoken word musings don't wear well on this album either (especially on "Desert Inn" or "Let Me Cry"), but its strongest tracks lead off with a bang, "Oh Yeah" included but also the noirish tongue-in-cheek "Desire," the infectious "Vicious Games" (sung by Rush Winters, who reappears for the similar but no less worthy "Angel No" at the end) and the absolutely bonkers "Koladi-Ola." The second half is unfortunately less accomplished despite a credible attempt at substance: the deep philosophical thoughts of "Domingo" aren't brought out by the aggressive guitars or the spitfire lyrics, and neither the drearily overwrought "Sometimes (Dr. Hirsch)" nor the grim yet unsympathetic "Let Me Cry" have any real breakthrough moments, though "Angel No" successfully redeems itself with a welcome callback to the first side. A particular oddity of this album — possibly reflecting its original provenance as an opera — are the periodic bloodcurdling screams on many of the tracks (the startlingly complex instrumental "Stalakdrama" in particular) and the overall spare production which both give the listener the impression of being trapped in a europop torture chamber, though I really mean this in the best possible way. There's a lot here to like and a lot here to ignore, but either way you get a lot, and none of it is anything you've ever heard before except for that one song you already have. The 2005 reissue includes "Blue Nabou," the B-side for "Vicious Games" and a decent song of its own, but the other three shoveled-on remixes of "Oh Yeah," "Desire" and even "Vicious Games" itself seem more commercially cynical than musically innovative. At least early mixes have historical interest even if they suck, whereas these wreck the artistic appeal of the originals in a vain attempt to get on DJ setlists. No thanks. (Content: no concerns, though "Stalakdrama" may be a little intense for young ones.)