200 Km/H in the Wrong Lane

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It makes no sense to discuss 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane, the first album by Russian dance-pop duo t.A.T.u., without focusing on the gimmick, since that gimmick is the band. Of course, gimmicks have always been central to pop music, including much of the greatest pop music, but few have felt as tawdry as t.A.T.u.. Which is, of course, that the girls are teenage lesbians. Or to shoddily paraphrase Charlie Sheen in Being John Malkovich, "they're hot teenage lesbians, and how can you not be into that?" Well, it's easy not to be into it when Julia and Lena appear to have been run through a marketing processor so they could become two Sapphic tarts who sing songs with suggestive titles like "Not Gonna Get Us," "Show Me Love," and "All the Things She Said" (it's likely a coincidence that the latter two share titles with songs by Robyn and Simple Minds, respectively, but perhaps not), while covering that perennial anthem of tortured unrequited love and lust, the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" (it was strong enough to withstand Love Spit Love's cover; it's strong enough to weather this). Perhaps this would have been fun if the music were fizzy, trashy, and disposable, the way Brit-pop novelty Shampoo was on its lark We Are Shampoo. Instead, it's heavy, portentous Europop, often helmed by Trevor Horn, and badly sung by two girls with annoying squawks for voices. With those relentless, gloomy beats and those voices that cut against the grain, it's easy to concentrate on nothing but the gimmick, because it's more fun to talk about Russian teenage lesbians than listen to this noisy, oppressive murk. Even then, you'll feel unclean, given the shamelessness of the exploitation in this whole crass, commercial enterprise.

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