? PROFILES july 1987

Rollicking, raunchy rock'n'roll from a pair of non-conformists

Word is out: there's a boom in French pop, and the fuse was lit by the rowdy, rampant Rita Mitsouko, two raggedy bohemians who have conquered the air-brushed world at the top of the French music charts. Catherine Ringer and Fred Chichin are the "gang of two" currently igniting the scene.

Their musical accessibility piggybacks on a demonic originality : it's a nutso, cacophonous mélange of genres and instruments through which Ringer's magnificent voice moves, part gamin, part industrial-strength, giving her lyrics the percussive bite French rock often lacks.

They are a bundle of paradoxes : pop stars with no interest in glitz and glamour, theatrical types with a striking image that they ignore completely, musicians who went to the top doing what they had always done in their garage.

Now they are big-time: Tony Visconti (David Bowie, Iggy Pop) produced their last album No Comprendo (with its ironicall international title); Jean-Luc Godard filmed during the record's production (the film, Soigne Ta Droite, comes out this fall). Last summer they scored again with "Andy," originally a B-side single that became the DJs' and the people's choice, and their current single, "C'est Comme Ça," is a hit.

Though unconcerned with "breaking into the U.S. market," Les Ritas appear poised to do just that. No Comprendo was released in the United States in late June; July sees them performing at the opening of the New Music Seminar in New York City before heading to Canada for six engagements. A new album is planned for this fall.

Les Ritas's live show is like nothing you've seen. Ringer, dressed like a nerd from outer space in plaid vest, striped pants and big flowered Mexican shawl, dominates the stage. Chichin, the tall, lanky "straight man" with the air of having just beamed onto the stage from another dimension, makes a reassuring anchor while all around him goes full tilt wacko.

Ursula Holloman