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"La Liberación"

CSS – La Liberación
15 August 2011, 08:48 Written by

In 2006, despite the plaint in the name of their first album (Cansei de Ser Sexy or “tired of being sexy”), CSS seemed effortlessly hot. Somehow getting lumped in with the “New Rave” movement with which they never quite seemed a complete fit, this band of friends from Sao Paulo, Brazil – led by the funny, compelling (and yes, really quite sexy) frontwoman Lovefoxx – gained many friends with their infectious, bouncy, smutty debut and the life-enhancing live show that accompanied it.

Their second album, 2008′s Donkey – released in the midst of changes to the band lineup – took an approach that was simultaneously more polished and somehow also world-weary. They sounded somehow defeated, and for a time it seemed that this most joyful of bands might have reached a downbeat end of the road. Here they are, though, again, back with a third set, a promisingly positive album title and another spin of the wheel…

And album number three does seem, at first listen, to be something of a return to CSS Mark I. The sunny optimism of tracks like ‘Hits Me Like a Rock’, ‘I Love You’ and ‘Echo of Love’ pitch themselves somewhere between Europop and Eurovision, with the latter track exhibiting a softer, more tender vocal delivery than usual as Lovefoxx sweetly advises to “Let it go / Enjoy it while it lasts”. These moments are offset by a swathe of harder-edged, more tough-minded tracks of the likes of ‘La Liberación’, the Spanish-language rock-riffing title track; ‘Ruby Eyes’, with its drawling bad-girl vocals and added piano gravitas; and ‘City Girl’, one of the album’s standout tracks with its nihilistic escapism (“In the big city / Nothing hurts, nothing hurts”… “No-one would give a shit” etc) and dystopian synths, only slightly softened by the flourishes of flamenco guitar and trumpet with which it is bookended.

A slightly masochistic, sometimes literally wounded sexuality (“Too many bruises from too much kissing”, “Like a car crash / You changed my scene”, “Only walk the dark side of the street”) is often intimated or implied. This sits alongside the same curious naivety that has always been part of the band’s appeal: a kind if disingenuous childishness. This is taken too far, though, on the hidden track/doodle at the album’s end, where Lovefoxx, in faux-”cute” girlishness pretends to be a twelve year old and itemizes her likes (“I like going to the pub with the gays… I like cooking… I like cookies”) in a way that is frankly nothing less than toecurling.

Where they get it right, however, is in those moments where the band have revived (and reminded us of) the elements that originally endeared them to us all back in the middle of the last decade. Their combination of joie de vivre and knowingness, worldliness and innocence is still an appealing one, and when it shines through, on the better tracks like ‘Echo of Love’, ‘I Love You’ and the terrific Bobby Gillespie collaboration ‘Hits Me Like a Rock’ then it feels good to have this band, in all their entertainingly contradictory nature, back with us again.

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