French duo Fred Chichin and Catherine Ringer met at a theater production in the late ’70s and an instant musical bond was formed, one that took them from rock to synthpop and back again.  Recording under the name Les Rita Mitsouko, the duo found success in Europe and eventually scored an American record deal with the stateside branch of their European label, Virgin.  In late 1986, The No Comprendo was released and its first single, “Andy” (download) became a bit of an underground dance hit, with Ringer’s over-the-top vocals (she basically sounds like every crazy rock chick ever, from Nina Hagen to Bjork) and Chichin’s funky guitar fighting for supremacy.

While “Andy” was burning up the dance floor, it was the video for “C’est Comme Áƒ”¡a” (download) that most people remember.  MTV’s 120 Minutes played the hell out of the inventive clip, and Happy Mondays completely swiped the video a year later for their “Step On” clip:

The duo followed up The No Comprendo with Marc et Robert in 1988, a New Wave-y throwback with Tony Visconti producing and a few collaborations with Sparks.  Lead single “Hip Kit” (download) was basically a duet with Russel Mael and the Brothers Mael even appeared in the video:

Of course as a Sparks fan, I love Marc et Robert, but not everyone feels the same.  From the Allmusic review by Thom Jurek:

This album proves that the first two records by Les Rita Mitsoukous (aka, guitarist Fred Chichin and vocalist/organist Catherine Ringer) were flukes and that for the most part French rock sucks. The fact that by 1988 they had resorted to collaborating with washed-up producer Tony Visconti should tell listeners something. The music here is hopelessly outdated new wave with stuttering keyboards and the occasional scratched record to add something the French thought approached street cred in the late ’80s. All the magic on records like No Comprendo is lost here, bogged down in overly busy production and Mattel drum machines with tired guitar sounds and even wearier ideas that were supposed to be songs such as “Hip Kit,” “Tongue Dance,” “Singing in the Shower,” and “Live in Las Vegas.” It’s all too cute, too calculated, and too lame. There isn’t a memorable track in the bunch, and whoever told these folks that Russell Mael could still sing and write at that stage of his life was onto something bad.

Ouch.  Well, I liked it.

“Andy” peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play Chart in 1987.

Get Les Rita Mitsouko music at Amazon.

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John C. Hughes

John C. Hughes began his Lost in the ’80s blog in 2005 and is now proud to be a member of the Popdose family, where he’s introduced LIT80s’s companions, the obviously named Lost in the ’70s and Lost in the ’90s, alongside the slightly more originally named Why You Should Like…

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