The teen lesbian come-on created to market the Russian duo Tatu is cover for music that’s a real turnoff

Baby dyke con job: the teen lesbian come-on created to market the Russian duo Tatu is cover for music that’s a real turnoff

Rob Chin

200 km/h in the Wrong Lane * Tatu * Interscope

Boy, if Morrissey supposedly got snitty over 10,000 Maniacs covering “Every Day Is Like Sunday,” one can only imagine how he feels about Tatu’s version of “How Soon Is Now?” At least Natalie Merchant knows a thing or two about pathos; the gifts of Tatu plumb emotionality only slightly better than Kelly Osbourne does.

To blame their youth, however, is to question the gimmick: two dewy adolescent Russians adding a lesbian jolt to teen pop’s fading schoolgirl fantasies. That’s just provocative enough to have earned them attention in Europe, even though questions remain as to the exact nature of Lena Katina and Julia Volkova’s relationship. Are they really budding lesbians or just femme trade looking to capture headlines by whatever means necessary? And given that they’re barely legal by U.S. standards, isn’t the oversexed come-on just as reprehensible as the making-up-the-band shenanigans of their aging teen-pop predecessors?

Exploitation issues aside, Tatu’s music simply doesn’t translate well to American ears accustomed to scripted rebellion and canned angst. The duo’s copywriter describes them as “pop meets Prodigy,” a reasonable approximation of their mix of chugging guitars, block-rocking beats, and wispy voices that suggest Shirley Manson on helium and a violent sugar buzz.

It’s a long-shot idea that doesn’t pay off, as the producers drop Katina and Volkova into a series of no-win situations. The girls get mired in phonetic choppiness on the turgid ballads and tend to yelp on the up-tempo tracks, most of which cross the line from catchy into annoying to begin with. Republica got away with a similar sound and even dodgier vocal talent because of its in-your-face cheekiness; Tatu fumbles by phoning it in.

At least they nailed the album title. 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane actually would make a decent soundtrack for a video game involving mindless road rage.

Elsewhere down the line we may see a group of baby dykes doing bubblegum successfully, but they’ll be the ones who remember to put the music ahead of the image–today’s minor scandal is merely tomorrow’s trivia question, after all. Come to think of it, whatever became of Fem 2 Fem, anyway?

COPYRIGHT 2003 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group