First of all, let’s not forget that Cansei De Ser Sexy is more attitude than music. The Sao Paulo group sings in English, influence-drops like crazy, and has only one real musician (Adriano Cintra, the drummer and only guy in the six-person group). So when you’re listening to the band’s excellent debut (and you should listen to it), you’ll know from the beginning that you’re being won over not by any musical innovation but by an unsubtle brand of art-school cool. The name may proclaim six hipster kids “tired of being sexy”, but the album tells us different.
Listening to CSS is like winding your way through an old school-simple, nevertheless addictive video game. From the Nintendo-style accompaniment of opener “CSS Suxxx” to “Fuckoff Is Not The only Thing You Have To Show”‘s perpetual-motion, Tetris melody, the group’s music is often hearkening back to a synth-filled bubble, when a computer was enough to transport you to another world for hours. But CSS are far from insulated in the ‘80s—far from it: the band’s subjects and preoccupations are entirely of the moment. You can tell this if only from the song titles: “Meeting Paris Hilton”, “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above”. More so, CSS take some of Peaches’ in-your-face sexuality and soften it with electropop that’s definitively of-the-moment.
Straight electro = straight dance-pleasure. “Alala”‘s dirty electro-synth hides the kind of innocent infatuation/dirty deed dichotomy that powers the Donnas’ punk tunes, but the most affecting line’s the simplest: “You’re so cool / Can I be your friend?” The Portuguese section at the end of the song is so cool makes you wish for the O/S edition of the disc, with its native-language originals included. “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above”, the track that got them so much attention online, is overwhelmingly appealing because it’s almost pure pop: it’s in the treble-floating melody as well as the handclaps, the swirling hard-edge electro that interrupts the middle of the song almost an afterthought. “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex” is CSS’s celebratory anthem, with the sentiment of Blur’s “Music Is My Radar” but in practice, something like Britney Spears’ “Toxic” made actually toxic—dirty fun.
Despite its dabbling in simpler rock ‘n’ roll guitar sound, it’s when things pick up a dance beat that the band really shines. “Patins” gets to that point about halfway through, when it spirals up from straight rock to post-punk dance beat, and Cintra and Lovefoxxx trade words—“Your skirt. Your pants. My records. My heard. The dogs. The bed.” The song becomes as addictive a meditation on disconnected love as even Love Is All could hope for.
But “Meeting Paris Hilton” takes attitude a step too far, into obnoxious territory (think “bitch” repeated ad nauseam); and “Artbitch”‘s explicit chorus is titillating, immaturely, the first time in the same way Peaches can be—but yes, it gets really old really fast.
Cansei De Ser Sexy win you over despite these missteps. They’ve produced a debut album that’s easy to like, hard to hold out against for too long. If only they can iron out this dichotomy between their more sophisticated looks at twenty-something hipster love and these over-the-top sex-me cuts, CSS could last longer than just being your latest summer crush.
// Notes from the Road
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