Bubbly Formula Makes Pep-see Better Than Pop

"We hate it when our friends become successful," crooned the great pop-scribe Morrissey, "Oh, look at those clothes, now look at that face. And such a video ... well, it's really LAUGHABLE."

These lyrics began to swirl around my head when I spotted an old friend of mine, Eleanor McEvoy, strutting her stuff on a late-night Russian music television program. I had grown inured to seeing her chunky, good looks and hearing her heartfelt Celtic warble on MTV, where her hit single "Only a Woman's Heart" received extensive air-play. But to make it as far as Russian television, that was real fame, putting her right up there with Bonnie Tyler, Elton John, Chris Norman from Smokie and all those stars that bleed across the East-West divide.

In contrast, almost all the Russians I know are already famous, making jealousy rather impractical. Perhaps it is an occupational hazard, but everyone I meet here spends a disproportionate amount of his time appearing on talk shows and opening his own personal exhibitions in New York. And the latest addition to my superstar-studded social circle is Inessa Mikhailova, whom I had hitherto known only as a member of the obscure and curiously named St. Petersburg pop-trio Pep-see.

But, suddenly, Pep-see is huge. Almost overnight, it has become the latest Russian music sensation, hosting their own hour-long television specials, featuring exclusive articles in "Bazaar" magazine and receiving a deluge of favorable reviews. "It's fairly easy to become famous in our country," opined Inessa. "You play live, you make a record and release it. All the journalists arrive and stick you in the newspapers.

It takes a long time -- four years in our case -- but that's all there is to it."

Pep-see, though, have a unprecedented weapon in their armory: a good Russian pop-album. Their debut "Three Stars in the Sky" is a jaunty, sparkling, original collection of impeccably produced, catchy songs. The sound is a little like a genetic fusion of Burt Bacharach and Kate Bush, reproduced three times using the latest cloning methods. "The style we were aiming for, you could call 'progressive disco,'" says Inessa. "We wanted to make our music as bright and appealing as possible, but to avoid the synthetic, artificial rubbish that dominates the Russian pop scene."

This formula worked well at the towering gig Pep-see played at St. Petersburg's Manhattan Club last weekend after which I rushed out and bought the CD in question. So, now when I am stuck in the doldrums, lamenting the fact that I myself am not in the least bit famous, I take my moaning Morrissey CD out of the player, smash it violently against the wall into a thousand tiny little glittering shards, and pop in Pep-see instead. It seems to work.