Though Mary Hopkin had taken a Russian folk tune to number one in 1968 with 'Those Were The Days', female duo t.A.T.u. mark the first time a Russian act proper have appeared on these pages. Whilst it's always nice to note the charts are still capable of producing 'firsts', the Russian-ness wasn't the novelty or hook that helped sell this - rather, it was that old chestnut 'sex'. Although Yulia Volkova and Lena Katina were 17 and 18 years old respectively in 2003, for 'All The Things She Said' producer/manager Ivan Shapovalov kitted them out as jailbait schoolgirls, marketed them as real life lesbians and directed an angsty and grimy promotional video that had them kissing in the rain behind a wire fence while a voyeuristic crowd looks on. As a piece, it made Britney Spears' schoolgirl turn in '...Baby One More Time' look positively cartoon-like, and the resultant media outrage was as predictably hysterical as it was cynically generated. But now that that little cloud of dust has settled, what's left? Fortunately, plenty.
Produced by pop veteran Trevor Horn, 'All The Things She Said' is invested with all the rolling thunder and gutsy swagger of an in their prime Frankie Goes To Hollywood; Horn can always be trusted to 'big up' a tune and his influence here is palpable, not least on the breathless rush of chorus where the girls tumble over each in the excitement of getting their lines out. Truth be told, neither has much of a voice, but then neither attempts to disguise it either and the amateur hour aura serves to give 'All The Things She Said' a primal rawness (check out Lena's strained howls of desire on the recurring "This. Is. Not. Enough") that, despite their 'underground' posturing, you don't get from Girls Aloud.
And ultimately, that's exactly what appeals to me most about all this - its complete lack of polish and finesse; for all the careful marketing and sexual product placement 'All The Things She Said' is Europop from the Eurogutter, an untarted rough and ready blast of 'want a better world' teenage angst compiled by components ripped blindly from a box of electronica and then lobbed into the charts with all sparking wires still dangling loose. The lesbian sideshow is merely a distraction for those easily distracted by that kind of thing - 'All The Things She Said' has excitement and energy enough to run its own race without any props.