Three years after they were an international media sensation -- hey, who doesn't like talking about and looking at Russian lesbian schoolgirls? -- t.A.t.U. returned in 2005 with their second album, Dangerous and Moving. As Tommy Duncan sang, time does indeed change everything, and t.A.t.U. had a turbulent three years, separating from the Svengali manager and, most shocking of all, revealing that they weren't lesbians at all! In fact, Julia Volkova actually had a child, which kind of punctured the whole schoolgirl lesbian fantasy that had been pushed by the dearly departed manager in the first place. So, free to be themselves, t.A.t.U. decided to grow up for their second album -- and nothing says maturity like ditching the short plaid skirts and bringing in Sting to play bass for a track, while hiring Richard Carpenter for a string arrangement for another. The presence of these two middlebrow titans may suggest that Dangerous and Moving sounds different than their debut, 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane, and while that's true to a certain extent, it's also misleading. Yes, there are a couple more ballads here, the Eurotrash quotient isn't quite so trashy (yet it's every bit as Euro), and, best of all, the girls' voices aren't run through the computer compressor that makes them sound as high and shrill as a drill. But all these little changes don't alter the duo's music much at all: they still make cold, crass, clinical dance-pop sung by two ciphers with thin, awkward voices. Like last time, they have one single with an insistent, repetitive hook built around the word "us" that opens the album (last time it was "Not Gonna Get Us," it's now the sound-alike "All About Us"), and then they recycle that sound to staggeringly diminished returns for the remainder of the record. As Dangerous and Moving wears on -- hell, by the second track -- the icy digital sheen of the production starts to grate nearly as bad as the flat, bored vocals of the girls. Since the beats are monotonous, since the songs are insipid and forgettable, since the girls not only can't sing but have no on-record charisma, since there's no sense of style and, most importantly, sense of fun to this whole enterprise, Dangerous and Moving is the worst kind of pop music: the kind that is better to theorize about than to listen to. And now that they're not hot lesbian schoolgirls anymore, it's not even that much fun to theorize and argue about, since without the sapphic gimmick, t.A.t.U. simply doesn't have a reason to exist.
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