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Friday, August 15, 2008

CSS - Donkey

Brazilian party band CSS splashed onto the scene two years ago with their quirky and addictive self-titled debut, a refreshing brand of punk-infused party pop. Tracks like “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above” and “Music is My Hot, Hot Sex” struck a chord across the world and the band toured relentlessly in support of the album. With their sophomore LP Donkey, things are generally played a bit safer, trading in the raw, DIY nature of the first disc for a more polished and highly produced electro-rock sound.

From the get-go things kick off with the highly-charged, rock 'n' roll one-two punch of "Jager Yoga" and the lead-off single "Rat is Dead (Rage)", the latter of which finds lead singer Lovefoxx at her angriest, at times managing an uncharacteristic snarl. The combination of the two tracks do a great job of yanking you head-first into the album, before things lighten up with the electro-funk bop of "Let's Reggae All Night", a song that walks a very fine line between escapist fun and cheesy fluff.

Much of the new album seems to chronicle the band’s exhaustive touring schedule, one that has found them sprawling the globe ever since they flew out of the gate back in 2006. With references to "a suitcase in Helsinki", drinking till you pass out ("Left Behind"), and the complications of long-distance love ("Give Up"), it seems the gang have found their comfort zone in the unstable life led on the road. This makes perfect sense, as CSS’ live show is a highly entertaining spectacle that seems to grow more and more theatrical with every outing.

One of the most notable thoughts that comes to mind when listening to Donkey is how CSS have taken more than just a musical cue from The B-52’s. While the debut album was a sort of attempt, albeit unintentional, to dethrone The B’s status as the ultimate party band, Donkey hones in on Ricky Wilson’s legendary new wave/surf guitar riffs that arguably made them a vital part of the post-punk movement. Of course, nearly 30 years later, this approach isn’t exactly fresh, but it’s the subtle use of varying influences here that serve as the glue holding this rather rickety ship of an album together. Not to say it's a bad album, but there are a number of moments where it feels as if things could crack open and fall apart. Occasionally banal lyrics are frequently saved by Lovefoxx's unique vocal delivery and Adriano Cintra's slick production work is largely boosted by Mark "Spike" Stent's impressive mixing capabilities. Luckily for CSS, these elements are largely responsible for saving this ship from sinking.

But most importantly, Donkey is really all about the hooks-those irresistible, fleeting moments that chase your psyche for days on end after listening to them. These hooks creep up on your subconscious and, before you know it, you find yourself singing them over and over again in your head without really knowing where they came from in the first place. This is a huge part of what makes great pop music-songs that grow on you in that sugary sort of way and for whatever reason, you just can't let go of them. Nearly every track here has moments of reaching such pop greatness. "Beautiful Song" is probably one of the better examples of this. Utilizing 80's-style synth pads and a super-catchy rhythm, the track ironically stands out as one of the more original gems, as does the equally synth-laden "How I Became Paranoid".

Sure, CSS are certainly not to be taken too seriously, but if you give them the time, they'll deliver the party. And what a fun one it always turns out to be.

-Originally published at

1 comment:

Rory said...

Is that a Michel de Broin sculpture?