The real Russian music scene remains a mystery to most Westerners, and t.A.T.u.'s 200 KM/H in the Wrong Direction
does little to help educate us. This disturbingly vapid pop record is an embarrassingly packaged platter of cotton candy sweetness -- all sugar and no substance -- that says more about how low record execs will sink to make a buck than it does about the Russian music scene. t.A.T.u. is a female version of Milli Vanilli, updated for the new millennium, that shallowly tries to titillate with a backstory of lesbian love between the two principal members, 18-year-old Julia Volkova and 19-year-old Lena Katina. Volkova and Katina were cast for their roles in the group by a Moscow TV producer.
Driven in part by super-producer Trevor Horn (Pet Shop Boys, Frankie Goes to Hollywood), the record tries to get by on highly processed dual female vocals resting on a bed of shiny beats, keyboards and guitars. Two cuts are sung entirely in Russian, but they are pushed to the end of the disc in favor of the two English versions of the songs, which open the record. The final nail in the coffin is the syrupy cover of The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?", which has been stripped of all of the original's emotional weight and retooled as a Euro-dance club thumper. While the tune showcases one of the girls' stratospherically high voices, it can't end soon enough...much like the rest of the record. If you are obsessed with Eurodance music, you may be interested in hearing this. If you know a prefab act (that aims to trade on the lowest common denominator) when you see one, pass this by.