[12 December 2007]
File baile funk alongside grime and electroclash as recent, quasi-exotic sub-genres that pulled off the nifty, self-defeating track of burning out through highly concentrated ubiquity (mp3 blogs, DJ mix sets) before ever really catching on (at least in North America) outside the 21st Century’s hipper, and more insular, musical outlets. In the specific case of baile funk, you can mostly blame the same guy for both bringing the music to our attention and effectively killing it via playing it to goddamn death. Hint: His name starts with a ‘D’ and ends with an ‘iplo’.
Don’t blame Bonde do Rolê, though. They may be on Mr. Pentz’s label imprint, but it’s not their fault that they’re the product of a scene that Northern Hemispherians have already shrugged off as passé. They’re just trying to rock our socks off, an admirable intention regardless of genre, skill level, or continent of origination. Their debut LP proper finally came out this year, and bless their hearts, it’s called With Lasers. What’s more rawking than that? Andrew WK and the Darkness have got to be at least a little pissed that they didn’t come up with it.
Forgive me if I sound patronizing, but it’s worth reiterating that good things can still be yielded from concepts we’ve cooled prematurely on. Which isn’t to say that I’m spending too much time seeking out the grime album of ‘07, but I haven’t written off Dizzee Rascal or Wiley just yet either. Plus, Bonde do Rolê transcend baile-funk-as-you-know-it almost as often as not. While the in-your-face riot chants and gnarly keybs are the same bag you get with Favela on Blast or Favela Booty Beats, over the course of With Lasers, Bonde do Rolê emerge as a cohesive, distinctive musical unit, as much a band as, say, Spoon or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
I know, I know: how horribly First World of me; it’s no coincidence that ‘a’, ‘s’, and ‘s’ are the first three letters in “assumption”. It’s undeniable, though, that a certain organic, anti-auteurist anonymity was a key ingredient in baile funk’s short-lived appeal to hip North Americans; poverty and violence and Portugese rendered chic through glossy “urban” magazine spreads. Not that I speak the language, but my guess is that most of the revolutionary politics we read into this developing nation’s party music was wishful thinking on the part of ostensibly liberal would-be pop critics. Sure, M.I.A. gets down in her Che print t-shirt; Bonde do Role are more “Frankie Says Relax”.
The irony of this group and their half-hour treat of an album is that they’re simultaneously playing the game on our terms (or trying to anyway) and limited by a form they’ll soon outgrow, if they haven’t already, unless, of course, all Brazilian music is baile funk to your ears. Who knows, though? As I flip channels, I notice Cansei de Ser Sexy’s “Music is My Hot, Hot Sex” on an ad for Apple’s iPod Touch. Maybe Bonde do Role will find a clever in-road, too. At the very least, they deserve a fair shake.