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POP MUSIC REVIEW : French Duo Les Rita Mitsouko

January 15, 1988|CHRIS WILLMAN

Americans do like to be sung to in French; nice to imagine what kind of sensual stuff might be being said.

Even if it has been 13 years since a song in the romantic language became a major American hit (LaBelle's No. 1 "Lady Marmalade"), the love affair may yet resume: A new French duo called Les Rita Mitsouko has an infectious dance-club hit titled "Andy" that could be the start of something big.

Les Rita Mitsouko made its local debut Wednesday with a brief but promising midnight set at downtown's Flaming Colossus club, which seemed like Art Monster Central as fans of European new music and flash-happy paparazzi packed in to greet these eccentric foreign debutantes.

Partners Catherine Ringer and Fred Chichin write the songs together and both play a variety of instruments on their recent debut LP debut. But for this 40-minute introductory set, she just sang and he just played guitar, backed by a live drummer and taped studio tracks.

As with Eurythmics, he's a silent type in plaids and a beret, and she's the dynamo. The lovely Ringer has a voice that easily slid from pretty high octaves to a hoarse croak and back again. In her space-age running suit, she was the very model of mesmerizing, herky-jerky economy, moving virtually every movable body part while almost always standing in place (or, during "C'est Comme Ca," strenuously running in place). Madonna wanna-be's could take a lesson in effortless sensuality from Ringer.

The mostly pre-recorded sound had less to do with Eurythmics, though, than with perhaps Lene Lovich visiting a Eurodisco--a smart mixture of sensibilities pop and avant-garde, old-style new wave with new-style dance music and even a bit of a cabaret feel.

While most of the songs were in French, it's rumored much more of the next album will be in English--which could be what breaks Les Rita Mitsouko here.

Then again, the few English lyrics the duo now has tend to be repetitions of cold and deliberately banal sentiments like "A fat man, yeah a fat man / All around my little body," or "I tried every man / But I'm stupid anyway."

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