200 Km/H in the Wrong Lane (Interscope)
by Michael McCarthy
I first heard about T.A.T.U., comprised of Julia Volkova and Lena Katina, from a friend who described them as “teenage Russian lesbian schoolgirls.” Is that what their name is supposed to mean? Are they really lesbians? And if they are lesbians, are they a couple? According to one person selling their 2001 Russian CD on ebay, “tatu” is Russian slang that basically means “she’s doing her.” One thing is for certain: There is a lot of mystery around these young pop stars. Not to mention controversy.
In the video for the original Russian version of the haunting ballad “30 Minutes,” Julia catches Lena cheating on her… with a boy! To get even, she makes a bomb in the girl’s bathroom and puts it in Lena’s backpack. Later, Lena is being fondled by the boy on a carousel when the bomb explodes. Tacky? It easily could’ve been, but it’s surprisingly affecting, both the song and video effectively conveying the heartbreak felt by Julia’s character. Love it or hate it, this sort of bold honesty is the crux of T.A.T.U.’s songs and videos and one gets the idea that they’re more interested in provoking a reaction than making you like ’em.
Rather than simply recording new vocals for this English-language version of the album, the duo worked with producer Trevor Horn (formerly of The Buggles, Yes, and The Art of Noise) and made some other changes as well. While some songs do seem to include music tracks from the Russian release, others sound as if they were nearly or entirely re-made. Regardless, there isn’t a bad song in the bunch. And this isn’t the sort of run-of-the-mill pop those guys in Sweden have been producing in recent years. From the techno-influenced “Not Gonna Get Us” to the industrial-flavored “Show Me Love,” this is edgier and darker all around. Dare I say catchier, too.