Sunday, December 13, 2009

I'd Buy Anything By...Les Rita Mitsouko

Sometimes it's hard to enjoy a band if you can't understand their lyrics. Language barriers can prevent an awful lot of a song from getting through.

But then there's France's "Les Rita Mitsouko," a cult group consisting of Catherine Ringer and Fred Chichin. They've gone through a dozen different styles -- sometimes in the same album -- and their output has occasionally been spotty, but there's an undeniable art-rock creativity and "hookiness" in everything they do.

I firmly believe that the funkiest song ever written is "Andy," the song that introduced me to the band. Musique Plus, the Quebecois branch of Much Music, had it on constant rotation for a while, and to this day it still baffles and delights me...and I simply CANNOT sit still while listening to it. Here's the original French version, which unfortunately is missing some of the flourishes of the later English remix, but...the bass! The BASS!

The band made more headway into the English market when they collaborated on an album with Sparks, but I think their weirdness has been destined to keep them more-or-less underground.

In 2007 they released an album which has been somewhat derided for its conventionalism. I have yet to hear it, but here's a live performance of "Ding Dang Dong," one of the singles. It proves that they're still spectacular 25 years later.

There's a sad ending to this story. Fred Chichin died in 2007 after a sudden bout with cancer. He was no doubt one half of the band, and it's hard to picture Ringer continuing much farther without him. Maybe she will, but I miss Chichin, his passing is truly tragic.

Albums to buy: "The No Comprendo" was their first and -- I think -- their best. It has a raw post-punk sound with unique influences. Albums to avoid: "Systeme D" saw the band overwhelmed by technology and's not terrible, but don't buy it first. For fans only: I don't know. I live too far away from their fan base.

Poor Fred.

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