It’s been three years since CSS’s coolly received ‘Donkey’. In the aftermath, the band admitted feelings of fatigue, with Lovefoxxx proclaiming that she didn’t “like making music now”. In the years that followed, however, not a festival went by when we don’t pine for the swish of Lovefoxxx’s rainbow jumpsuit and the wonderfully demented electro-funk of her band.
Now they’re back with their third slice of fizzy surrealism. ‘La Liberación’ is out on August 29. Was it worth the wait?
I Love You
A gentle starter which almost feels like a false start, so familiar are its textures. There’s a cowbell, lo-fi production that finds grunge guitars wrapped in a fuzzy coat of multiple keyboards and a nursery rhyme synth line that snakes through the whole track. Lovefoxxx breezily announces “Another year has passed and here I stand,” before dropping a wacky metaphor (“I thought I was a traffic light”). Undeniably CSS, you can’t help but think that these guys could have made this track in their sleep.
Hits Me Like A Rock
Now this is more like it. All the proof, if there was any needed, that when they said they wanted to reggae all night that they really meant it. It begins like a Boney M shoulder jerker before Bobby Gillespie enters stage left, and proves himself to be their best duet partner since Jarvis. A momentous breakdown three quarters through leaves you somewhere between ’Higher Than The Sun’ and ‘Genius Of Love’. Tasty (yes I did just say that).
It starts off innocently enough, with an expertly strummed Spanish guitar before a spunky male voice says: “I wish I would dye my hair pink/put on black lipstick/ because I don’t give a shit”. Clearly, we’re off into glammy stomper territory (with added rave synths). This is the first track of many where CSS, previously happily to be outsiders trilling about John Waters and shit, now sing about being them. Suddenly the freedom-themed album title makes more sense. This anthemic, deeply personal track tackles the issue of growing with big city feelings fending off a small town mentality, expounded via a killer line chorus: ”In the big city/ nothing hurts/ nothing hurts”. It feels like it could be playing in the background of a Pedro Almodóvar flick.
Echo Of Love
Featuring Lovefoxxx’s most gentle vocal delivery possibly ever, this is an expertly crafted, layered melody born from a high-ended very indie-goes-afrobeat guitar line. Weirdly, the tune’s spunky rhythms recalls The B-52s during their ‘Whammy’ period or Talking Heads during their ‘Speaking In Tongues’ phase.
You Could Have It All
A moody, echoey piano line starts before the track develops into a – wait for it – CSS break up ballad! The unexpected thing is that it really, really works. Lovefoxxx tells a love-gone-sour tale, where the newness has gone out of a relationship thanks to one of the parties taking the other for granted (“You looked at me like you had no other option””). Domestic bliss gets old as the couple’s power struggle comes undone in the chorus (“You can have it all/But then what’s left of me?”). Unexpectedly emotional and powerful.
Initial listens has us writing this off as a deceptively slight, two-minute punk stomper. However a quick check reveals that ‘Liberación’ translates as ‘the women’s liberation movement’. The band, who’ve spoken out against the sexism in Brazil and the world of indie, know the continued importance of singing about women’s rights. It also makes a link between their beloved Hole, L7 and ‘Patins’.
Partners In Crime
…And from a rudimentary punk work out to the most mature we’ve heard from the band. A gentle piano ballad gushes forth, with its lyrics hoping for new love just as ‘You Could Have It All’ saw love disintegrating. Lovefoxxx gently coos: “If you could only see/ how your love is working on me”. Officially Not A Jump Suit moment.
A twin to ‘Partners In Crime’ in its wistful, acoustic style. Lyrically, however, this is another outsiders’ paean, specifically to “the only hippie in the village” who comes to mind “everytime I smoke a joint”. The whirring feedback and wonderfully cluttered sound of this calls to mind their very fine Grizzly Bear cover ‘Knife’, which recently resurfaced in The Kids Are All Right.
Rhythm Of The Rebels
The third of their ‘outsider’ songs, this is also the most freeform. Recalling the grungey swall of ‘Rat Is Dead’ (but without the anger), it’s hard to love, this one. Both as a motivational anthem (”The rhythm of the rebels is calling me”) and as a clarion call to the disaffected, it seems too laid back to really be effective.
A high-end piano gives away to some Chic-style guitar licks and we’re back to the site of ’Hits Me Like A Rock’s psychedelic disco beachfront. Lovefoxxx’s speaks/sings a series of coo-ing, surreal come-ons (“ Meet in the desert/ I want to speak your tongue”). Watch out, because when you listen to this, you might find the light from a long forgotten new rave star shining on you like it’s 2008.
The last track on the album is also the track which most harks back to their ‘Cansei de Ser Sexy’ debut. “I’ve got a PHD in ADD” Lovefoxxx spits against a saxophone-aided, punk squall. Like CSS Version 1, it’s a slice of funny, shocking nihilism (“I want to rip my eyes out and….SCREAM!”) but also sits as evidence as to how far the band have come.
If the criticism of ‘Donkey’ focused on the fact that there didn’t seem to be much movement on from their debut, the same cannot be said of ‘La Liberación’. There’s a real sense of maturity and expansion on this album, but not at the expense of fun, fun, fun. Here we’ve got some genre experiments executed skillfully and plenty to remind us why we fell in the love with the band in the first place.