Les Rita Mitsouko

2007: Because 3123182 WAG825

  1. L’ami ennemi
  2. Communiqueur d’amour
  3. Rêverie (la complainte d’Isabelle et Jean)
  4. Berceuse
  5. Même si
  6. Rendez-vous avec moi-même
  7. She’s a Chameleon
  8. Soir de peine
  9. Bad Luck Queen (Marie-Antoinette)
  10. Ma vieille ville
  11. Ding Ding Dong (Ringing at Your Bell)
  12. Terminal Beauty avec Serj Tankian
  13. Berceuse version chinois mandarin
  14. Communi’Hearts in Love
  15. Terminal Beauté

New to my collection as of late April 2007, and I gather it was just released. Merci, la FNAC ! I saw a customer-level review after I’d received my copy that said (essentially, in translation) that this was yet again nothing new from Les Rita Mitsouko…I can only surmise that the person in question had already decided what they’d say about the CD before it was released, and that they never did bother to play it.

There are familiar sounds here, and unfamiliar ones as well. What really did surprise me was that I heard some new incarnations of LRM’s older sound—not a rehash, nor new versions of old songs, but slightly awkward melodies and arrangements along the lines of their “No Comprendo” days at least. But new! And infused with the calm strength of their years of experience in songwriting and in creating/discovering what Les Rita Mitsouko was/is. The result is mostly engaging and almost too easy on the ear.

There are two new sounds in play here: Catherine Ringer’s playing harmonica throughout (and she’s no Stevie Wonder, for sure), and her adult daughter Ginger Ringer provides secondary vocals on many of the songs. (Not bad. A very clean voice.) The presence of three and a half songs in English is another throwback of sorts, yet it’s also the heralding of a new strategic approach by the duo: they want to slough off the restraining skin of being simply “French” and tour more engagingly in other countries—European ones, to start, for sure, but also farther afield. That they recorded a Mandarin Chinese version of the scary-enough track “Berceuse” is an indication of this, apparently…but c’mon, would they really want to perform THAT song for a concert audience? It scared the shit out of me on first headphones-listening, even in my second language, and I can’t imagine it getting thunderous applause from the baffled and scarred audience regardless of the language.

The album’s justly named, as there’s a nice variety of musical work here, and that includes the quality and richness of the lyrics. “L’ami ennemi,” which kicks things off, presents a haphazard encounter with the singer’s “old enemy” on a side-street at the foot of Montmartre; the song is pungent with ambiguity and ambivalence, with the present opinion of the old enemy never quite established amid the dangerous mental dancing (“friend of my nights and fogs,” she nods in each chorus).

I need more time to play-and-replay the album and discern its lyrical-content aspects, as I’m not a native French speaker (and I know that “Berceuse” and “Rendez-vous avec moi-même” will require most of my attention in that sense). Of the three-and-a-half tracks recorded here in English (four-and-a-half, if you count the deluxe release’s “Hearts in Love” version of “Communiqueur d’amour”), “She’s a Cameleon” is probably the most readily accessible and enjoyable, whereas “Terminal Beauty” is better in theory (a lament regarding anorexically distorted girl models in magazines, although it can read somewhat as regarding starving Ethiopian children) than in reality, as Serj Tankian’s voice grates on my ears with unexpected intensity. Ringer seems to have attained a better English pronunciation over the years, anyway; only the track “Bad Luck Queen” (about Marie Antoinette) betrays the accent significantly (Ringer and/or her daughter sing “archduchess” as the proper French “archiduchesse,” for example).

“Ma vieille ville” made me cry (…but then I’m jealous…and Paris won’t let me in to stay); it’s sentiment without the syrup. As for “Ding ding dong,” of which the chorus is in English, I’m not sure what to say except that it’s catchy and that it features a tasty sax solo by Simon Clarke—I mean TASTY! Just right, just hot enough for what it is.

Overall: a worthy addition to the Les Rita Mitsouko catalogue, although it doesn’t establish any new voice or direction on their part. It’s a pleasure to listen to.