Les Rita Mitsouko, Marc & Robert

France's oddest musical duo, and that's saying something, n'est pas, decided they weren't odd enough and had to pair up for a few tracks with America's oddest fake English duo. This may not have been a wise idea; indeed, this album actually was their lowest charting effort in their home country, though that may simply mean French audiences found its Anglophilic tendencies treasonous. As means of adaptation acoustic instruments are credited in the liner notes but sunk in the mix, bringing forth a more synth-heavy style which suited Sparks' contemporary output, and Catherine Ringer's vocal range matches Russ Mael's eerily well. He doesn't sing French so good ("Hip Kit"), but what do you expect from Americans? — rather better is "Singing in the Shower" even though it turns the French half basically into a glorified session band. The non-Sparks tracks are actually the majority, and it is here that Les Rita's usual sprawling madness reasserts itself in things like the shrilly schlocky continental pastiche "Mandolino City," the aspirational "Ailleurs" and the luxurious "Petite Fille Princesse," though there are less inspiring efforts, to be sure: "Le Petit Train"'s attempt to be thought-provoking is undercut by the overpowered dance beat and their independent English language output is just bizarre ("Harpie & Harpo" and "Perfect Eyes" in particular, though the eyebrow-raising "Tongue Dance" at least has a good groove to recommend it). Marc & Robert's incautious mashup of styles and even languages is on balance a little too unbalanced to appeal to the casual listener, but Europop devotees may find it a refreshing change of pace, Sparks fanatics like me will certainly find it interesting and Canadians will at least understand the lyrics. The CD issue adds another Sparks cover of sorts in "Live in Las Vegas," but this Ringer-Mael duet is a rare live performance actually worth listening to even if you're not a Sparks freak. (Content: no obvious issues, though my French est beaucoup rusty.)